England

Human trafficking gang based in East Sussex sentenced

Human trafficking gang members Image copyright SEROCU
Image caption Top row, left to right: Alan Hoger, Goran Ahmed, Cristinel Samson, Ionut Cornila. Bottom row, left to right: Alan Salam, Arie Ali, Kveta Conkova, Mohammed Rasul, Neyaz Hamasaid

Gang members who trafficked people from the Middle East into the UK have been sentenced.

A two-year investigation uncovered a network specialising in the illegal movement of people from Iraq and the Kurdistan region.

Eleven people were sentenced following trials at Woolwich Crown Court.

They were convicted of offences including conspiracy to assist in unlawful immigration and money laundering.

The South East Regional Organised Crime Unit said the gang would use contacts across the UK, Europe and Asia to move people to a holding point, often in south-eastern France.

They were then taken by taxi to Belgium, where they would be hidden within lorries heading to the UK by ferry.

Image copyright SEROCU
Image caption Large amounts of cash was seized by police during the investigation

Police said the victims would travel either in the lorry cab, on top of the cab in the wind deflector, or underneath the trailer on a pallet shelf.

If they were detained in the UK, they would immediately claim asylum and be released to family members, who had paid the organised crime group between £8,000 and £10,000 per individual.

The ringleaders of the operation were 33-year-old Alan Hoger and 34-year-old Goran Ahmed, both from East Sussex.

Hoger and Ahmed, who are both Kurdish, had set up operating bases in Hastings and St Leonards but had a nationwide network of customers, money launderers and criminal associates in Bolton, Nottingham, Devon, Brighton, Eastbourne and Hull.

'Exploited vulnerable people'

Police said Hoger boasted of being a millionaire to his friends and laundered his profits from the organised crime group back to the Kurdistan region.

He was convicted after a trial and jailed for 10 years, while Ahmed was also found guilty and jailed for eight years.

Lorry drivers Cristinel Samson, 50, and Ionut Cornila, 27, were jailed for five years and four years respectively.

Det Ch Insp Steve May said: "This gang took advantage of their links to the Middle East to exploit vulnerable people for financial gain, with no concern about putting their lives in danger. Their only concern was their profit margins."

Those convicted are:

• Alan Hoger, 33, of Kenilworth Road, St Leonards-On-Sea, East Sussex: found guilty of conspiracy to assist in unlawful immigration to the UK and conspiracy to convert criminal property, and jailed for 10 years

• Goran Ahmed, 34, of Farley Bank, Hastings, East Sussex: found guilty of conspiracy to assist in unlawful immigration to the UK and conspiracy to convert criminal property. Jailed for eight years

• Cristinel Samson, 50, of Grimstone Avenue, Folkestone, Kent: found guilty of conspiracy to assist in unlawful immigration to the UK, and jailed for five years

• Ionut Cornila, 27, from Romania: found guilty of five counts of conspiracy to assist in unlawful immigration to the UK and jailed for six years

• Mohammed Rasul, 30, of Church Road, Ashford, Kent: found guilty of two counts of conspiracy to assist in unlawful immigration to the UK and jailed for three years

• Neyaz Hamasaid, 34, of Stour Street, West Bromwich, found guilty of one count of conspiracy to assist in unlawful immigration to the UK and jailed for three years

• Arie Ali, 27, of Ashton Rise, Brighton: found guilty of one count of conspiracy to assist in unlawful immigration to the UK and jailed for three years

• Bakhtyar Mohammed, 46, of Netherfield Road, Bolton: found guilty of one count of conspiracy to convert criminal property and sentenced to 12 months in jail, suspended for two years

• Kveta Conkova, 31, of Kenilworth Road, St Leonards-On-Sea, East Sussex, was found guilty of one count of converting criminal property and sentenced to four months in prison

• Alan Salam, 34, of The Rookery, Eastbourne, East Sussex: found guilty of converting criminal property, perverting the course of justice and conspiracy to pervert the court of justice. Jailed for four years and three months

• Susan Mohammed, 36, of The Rookery, Eastbourne, East Sussex: found guilty of perverting the course of justice and jailed for four months

• Kaiwan Ali, 36, of Dryden Street, Nottingham, and 37-year-old Ari Ako, of the same address, were both found guilty of perverting the course of justice and will be sentenced on 12 August.

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