Author: Harley Tamplin
A soldier’s scheme to smuggle illegal immigrants into Britain was foiled when two men were found hiding in his car boot. The men in their 20s, from Iraq and Syria, were found lying on top of each other and head to toe in a Hyundai hired by Lance Corporal Kyle Harris, Maidstone Crown Court heard. The 29-year-old had been pulled over by immigration officials at the Channel Tunnel who searched his car as he was ‘nervous and sweating’.
Harris, from Epsom in Surrey, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to assist in unlawful immigration and is awaiting sentence. He has been discharged from the army. By the time Harris was arrested on May 6 2016, he had already carried out five other people-smuggling journeys, linking him to three immigrants brought to the UK.
Prosecutor Walton Hornsby said the soldier was paid £5,000 per migrant, and would collect them from a McDonald’s in Calais. Giving evidence about the discovery, Border Force officer Stewart Henderson said: ‘Throughout the conversation he appeared to be very wide-eyed and very sweaty even though I wasn’t sweating myself. ‘We walked around to the back of the car and he said to me ‘I have to own up to this. There’s two people in the back of the car.’. ‘I opened up the back and in there was a lot of his baggage, some army equipment and kit, all covering the whole rear. ‘I had to move some of it to see deeper into the boot and having moved the baggage and camouflage coat I saw two men lying down in the boot.’
The men were handed over to French authorities, the court heard. After his arrest, Harris claimed it was an isolated trip, and that he was to be paid £10,500 by an ‘unknown male’ after dropping off the men in Solihull.
But a Home Office investigation found it was part of a far wider conspiracy to smuggle immigrants from the Calais Jungle over two months. Car wash owner Zinden Ahmed is on trial facing the same charge. The 36-year-old is said to be the ‘central figure’ orchestrating the people-smuggling operation – his brother was one of the men smuggled in by Harris. At the start of Ahmed’s trial on Monday, Mr Hornsby said: ‘The agreement was to bring illegal immigrants into the UK. ‘The agreement was, and we will see this clearly in text messages, one every Friday, later increased to two, and the going rate being £5,000 per immigrant.’ Two phones belonging to Harris allegedly detailing his messages with Ahmed reveal ‘a compelling narrative of what was happening within this conspiracy’, the prosecutor said.