Smugglers used lorries to bring migrants to the UK

Accused are due to be sentenced on October 30.

LONDON: Two east London people smugglers charged migrants up to £7,000 to bring them into the UK.

Najib Khan, 38, from Ilford was identified as being part of a people smuggling network after the arrest of his co-conspirator Waqas Ikram, 40, from Dagenham in March 2021.

On Friday, a jury at Reading Crown Court found Khan guilty on three people smuggling counts. Ikram had earlier pleaded guilty to the charge.

The court heard how Ikram was caught red-handed at South Mimms services, where he was attempting to break into a lorry to put migrants inside.

At the time, he had been working for a people smuggling group headed by Md Mokter Hossain, who was later jailed for more than ten years.

But an iPhone seized on his arrest revealed conversations with Khan outlining how they were charging migrants up to £7,000 a head in a separate people smuggling outfit.

The chats revealed the pair had been involved in smuggling five migrants over the border at Harwich, Essex, in March 2019.

Two other attempts were foiled by border agents.

The first of these was in May 2019, when 15 Vietnamese and one Afghan migrant were found in a lorry at the Hook of Holland as it prepared to board a ferry to Harwich.

And in August that year, 16 migrants, including 11 minors, were rescued from a purpose built concealment in a lorry carrying 2,000 loose tyres – leaving them struggling to breathe.

Investigators with the National Crime Agency said it could have been “potentially fatal”.

The drivers of the lorry, which was attempting to board a ferry from Dieppe to Newhaven were jailed. But Ikram’s crime group were also proven to be involved.

The pair would use GPS trackers to trace lorries which they had arranged to be broken into without the drivers’ knowledge.

They had also purchased a rigid hull inflatable boat for the purpose of smuggling people – telling officers that they were in fact scouting for scuba diving sights.

They are due to be sentenced on October 30.

Branch commander at the National Crime Agency Andy Noyes said: “Ikram and Khan had no regard for the safety and security of those they were transporting, they were only interested in making money from them.

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