Tyne & Wear

Trio jailed for smuggling people in lorries

Gjolla and Niedzwiecki Image copyright Home Office
Image caption Ferdinand Gjolla (left) was the main organiser while Marek Niedzwiecki was the lorry driver

Three men who tried to smuggle 20 people into the UK in a lorry have been jailed.

Border Force officers found 19 Albanians and one Syrian hidden in a trailer carrying machinery at North Shields ferry terminal in 2015.

The HGV driver, Marek Niedzwiecki, 33, was jailed for five years at Newcastle Crown Court.

Accomplices Ferdinand Gjolla and Armando Mekolli were jailed for eight and three years respectively.

All three were found guilty of conspiring to facilitate unlawful entry into the UK following a 13-day trial.

The Home Office said officers inspected Polish national Niedzwiecki's lorry when it arrived from Ijmuiden, Holland, on 1 September 2015.

'Motivated by money'

Their investigation led them to the home in Redhill Avenue, Barnsley, of Albanian national Gjolla, 41.

The Home Office said Gjolla was the main organiser while Niedzwiecki, an HGV driver, was responsible for transporting the people into the UK, and Mekolli, 30, assisted Gjolla with the transportation of them once they arrived in the UK.

Rachael Luther, from the Immigration Enforcement Criminal Investigations team, said: "This was a well-run organised crime group motivated by money.

"Their sole aim was to breach the UK's immigration controls and bring people into the UK illegally."

Of the 20 people found in the back of the lorry, 16 have been returned to Albania.

The Home Office said the cases of the remaining four are being progressed in line with the immigration rules.

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