Two British Army soldiers were involved in a plot to smuggle illegal immigrants from the Calais Jungle camp into the UK, a court has heard.
Lance Corporal Kyle Harris and Lance Corporal David Plumstead were both serving in the 1st Battalion Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment based in Paderborn, Germany, when they were involved in the scam during a two-month period, it is claimed.
The initial agreement was to smuggle “one every Friday” for £5,000 each during trips back to England from their barracks, Maidstone Crown Court heard.
It later increased to two at a time, with the immigrants collected from a McDonald’s near the encampment in Calais and then driven through the Channel Tunnel.
The scam came to an end in May 2016 when an “anxious and nervous” Harris was stopped by Border Force officers at Coquelles.
He told them he was a serving soldier, produced his army identification card and said he was on his way to spend two days with his mother in Epsom.
When asked to open the boot he replied: “OK, I’m going to have to own up to this. There’s two people in the back.”
An Iraqi and a Syrian man, both in their 20s, were found in the boot of his German-registered Hyundai hire car, hiding under the soldier’s combat kit.
Harris, 29, said he was to be paid £10,500 by an “unknown male” and hand the stowaways over in Solihull.
He admitted people-smuggling earlier this year, blaming alcohol, drug and gambling problems.
Walton Hornsby, prosecuting, said a subsequent Home Office investigation revealed that the incident was not a “one-off”, claiming that he was involved in six such organised trips between March and May 2016.
He was even said to have boasted at the barracks about his involvement in the plot, allegedly orchestrated by Kurdish car wash owner Zinden Ahmed, 36, from Middlesbrough, who is described as the “central figure” and is also on trial.
“He met up with Zinden Ahmed by arrangement at various venues within the UK,” Mr Hornsby told the jury.
“Money was handed over, normally £2,500 in advance and £2,500 when the migrant was handed over.
“In return, Harris brought over the illegal immigrant from Calais. He was directed to a McDonald’s in Calais, met the immigrant and put them, either one or two, into the back of his car, through immigration, onto a train into the tunnel and thereafter on to various venues in the UK where they were collected.
“Three were successfully brought in, including Ahmed’s brother. The other two are unknown individuals.”
However, not all of the trips were successful.
An attempt on April 29 was aborted after contact could not be made with an unknown intermediary who was helping with the migrant “collections”.
On that occasion, Harris was joined in the car on his journey back to the UK by Plumstead, 24, who continues to serve in Paderborn.
Plumstead told police he had travelled with Harris twice from Germany to the UK and that he had dropped him off in his hometown of Portsmouth.
He said that on this occasion, it was Harris’s idea to stop at McDonald’s to use the lavatory and get some food.
Plumstead said Harris had been using his mobile phone on the journey from their barracks in Germany, but denied calling or texting anyone on his behalf.
Mr Hornsby told the jury: “Plumstead’s involvement in this conspiracy is a very minor one and did not involve the bringing of an illegal migrant into the UK.
“But in getting into the car and going to pick up a migrant he must have been an active participant with Kyle Harris on this particular trip.
“If that’s correct than he played a minor but nonetheless significant part of this conspiracy.”
Plumstead and Ahmed both deny conspiracy to assist in the unlawful immigration to a member state.