Author: JACK HARDY
A GANG of “alarmingly amateur” people smugglers, who plotted to bring migrants across the English Channel on jet skis, were jailed for a total of more than 48 years yesterday. The seven men included Kentbased trafficking criminals and their Albanian “travel agents”, the Old Bailey heard.
At least 18 Albanian migrants were taken from Calais to Dymchurch in Kent in 2016, using an overcrowded inflatable boat designed for six.
When it got into trouble and ran out of fuel, the plotters decided on a three-person jet ski for their next mission.
However, a surveillance operation, led by the National Crime Agency, put a stop to the unlikely plan.
The men were arrested and convicted of conspiracy to breach immigration law.
Judge Mark Dennis QC sentenced Leonard Powell, 66, from Dartford, Kent, to nine years.
His son George, 42, from Farningham, Kent, was given six years and nine months.
They were described as the “organisers and controlling figures”.
Powell senior’s other son Alfie, 39, of no fixed address, was said to have held a non-organisational role and received a six-year jail sentence.
They were joined in the dock by Sabah Dulaj, 24, of south-east London and Artur Nutaj, 39 – said to be “leading figures” in the plot.
Dulaj was jailed for seven years while Nutaj was jailed for seven-and-a-half years.
Co-conspirators Wayne Bath, 39, of Sheerness, and Albert Letchford, 42, of Dartford, received six years.
The judge said: “The execution of the operation at times proved to be alarmingly amateur and could have resulted in tragic consequences.”
The court heard that migrants, including men, women and children, were charged up to £5,500 each to journey across the English Channel.
This would have earned £99,000 for the trip with 18 passengers.
“Clearly, a very lucrative trade,” prosecutor Timothy Probert-Wood QC said yesterday.
He told the court that in May 2016 the gang picked up 18 migrants from France – including two children and a woman.
On the return journey, they ran out of fuel and the passengers were forced to start bailing out as the inflatable boat flooded with water.
The group were in “extreme fear for their lives”, the prosecutor said.
One sent a desperate text: “We are in England, tell police we are drowning.”
The Coastguard helicopter and RNLI launched a rescue operation and found the inflatable vessel.