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17 April 2019, 07:19 | Updated: 17 April 2019, 07:23
A Romanian man who attempted to smuggle seven people, including two children, into the UK hidden in a specially adapted van has been jailed for four and a half years.
Border Force at the Port of Dover found the group after stopping and searching a Mercedes Sprinter van in March.
The van was being driven by Liviu Borobeica, with five passengers - four people in the rear seats and one in the front passenger seat.
When officers searched the vehicle they found a false bulkhead had been created between the rear passenger seats and the boot area. Inside the partition were seven people, including two minors.
Paul Morgan, Director of Border Force South East and Europe said: "The van had been adapted for the sole purpose of smuggling. There was no way for the people hidden inside the partition to get in or out without outside assistance. The rear seats, which were bolted down, had to be removed before access to the hide could be gained. It was a sophisticated concealment.
"Border Force officers will continue to work with law enforcement colleagues to ensure that people smugglers and traffickers face the full consequences of their crimes."
Borobeica, 20, was arrested and the investigation was passed to officers from Immigration Enforcement’s Criminal and Financial Investigation (CFI) team. In subsequent interviews, Borobeica, of no fixed UK address, declined to answer any questions put to him by CFI officers.
Yesterday, 15 April, at Canterbury Crown Court, Borobeica admitted a charge of assisting unlawful immigration to the UK. He was sentenced immediately to four and a half years imprisonment.
Acting Deputy Director David Fairclough, from the CFI team, said: "No consideration had been given to the safety of the seven people hidden inside the cramped partition. If there had been any kind of accident there was no way for them to escape and a very real risk of serious injury.
"Borobeica pleaded guilty at an early opportunity, but has rightly been handed a lengthy custodial sentence. The message is clear, if you are involved in immigration related criminality, you will be caught and the consequences will be severe."
The cases of the seven people found in the van, who all claimed to be from Afghanistan, are being dealt with in line with the immigration rules.