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Former Beccles man used horse box to sneak migrants into UK

PUBLISHED: 12:00 21 January 2018 | UPDATED: 08:16 22 January 2018

The horse box used for smuggling the migrants. Picture: Courtesy of the NCA

The horse box used for smuggling the migrants. Picture: Courtesy of the NCA

Archant

A former Beccles man who was part of a crime group which smuggled migrants into the UK has been jailed following an investigation by the National Crime Agency.

Stephen Gardner, 31, used his international horse transportation business as a cover for the smuggling venture. Picture: Courtesy of the NCA Stephen Gardner, 31, used his international horse transportation business as a cover for the smuggling venture. Picture: Courtesy of the NCA

Stephen Gardner, 31, originally from Beccles but living in Spain, used his international horse transportation business as a cover for the illegal smuggling venture – hiding at least three people in his vehicle and bringing them into the UK from France.

The group of migrants were shoved into a cramped horse box to be smuggled from Europe to the UK on May 21, 2016.

Gardner, 31, was paid €4,000 to stow three people in the lorry, which was also carrying four horses at the time.

The people smuggling venture had been organised by Saleh Khaled Farhan, 44, from Blackburn.

Saleh Khaled Farhan pleaded guilty to conspiring to facilitate illegal immigration. Picture: Courtesy of the NCA Saleh Khaled Farhan pleaded guilty to conspiring to facilitate illegal immigration. Picture: Courtesy of the NCA

Farhan arranged for Gardner to collect the men in Marck, near Calais, take the ferry to Dover and then drop them off in Elstree, Hertfordshire before they were collected and moved to a ‘safe house’ in Wembley, north London.

The smuggling ring was discovered by the National Crime Agency (NCA), who found Farhan had been in contact with Gardner and one of the migrants throughout the journey.

NCA officers arrested Farhan at his home address in Blackburn a month later and established the link to Gardner. Following Gardner’s arrest, his phone was seized and it showed texts to his girlfriend where he admitted being paid around €4,000 to smuggle three migrants during the May 21 trip.

Both men pleaded guilty to conspiring to facilitate illegal immigration.

On Friday, January 19 at Birmingham Crown Court, Farhan was sentenced to three years and seven months in prison, while Gardner was given a three year jail term.

Speaking after the sentencing, NCA senior investigating officer Ty Surgeon said: “Gardner used his legitimate business as a cover for people smuggling, thinking he could make a bit of extra money on the side.

“These men facilitated the arrival of illegal migrants into the UK by exploiting their desperation, without thought for safety and with the sole motive of profit.

“Working with law enforcement partners at home and abroad we are determined to protect the UK border and do all we can to disrupt the criminal networks involved in organised immigration crime.”

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