Two British men _ one from Hurstpierpoint – caught at Eastbourne’s Sovereign Harbour trying to smuggle 14 illegal migrants across the Channel and into the UK using a small motor boat, have been jailed for a total of five and a half years.
On November 15 2014 the Sea Paz got into difficulties just outside the entrance to Sovereign Harbour and was towed into the marina by the harbour master.
Once docked, the 14 passengers on board the vessel attempted to flee but were apprehended by marina staff and police.
They and the owner of the boat, Jonathan Bridgeman who had remained on board, were arrested and the investigation into the incident was passed to Immigration Enforcement Criminal Investigation officers.
Investigations showed the vessel had left Brighton Marina the previous day, crossed to Dieppe where it was berthed for a few hours departing at around midnight and returning to Eastbourne.
Evidence showed a second British man, Deshan Laci, was on the voyage to and from France and had fled the vessel when it arrived in Eastbourne.
Subsequent investigations established that Laci operated a car wash business in Hurstpierpoint, Sussex.
On February 5 last year immigration enforcement officers visited the Albourne Road premises and found an Albanian man working illegally.
Laci and Bridgeman were charged with charged with assisting unlawful immigration into the UK.
Bridgeman pleaded guilty at a hearing at Lewes Crown Court in October last year.
Laci pleaded guilty at the same court on 2 September this year.
Both men were sentenced at Lewes Crown Court on Friday.
Laci was sentenced to three years imprisonment and Bridgeman two and a half years.
Assistant director Dave Fairclough, from the Immigration Enforcement Criminal Investigations team, said, “These convictions show how different agencies are working together effectively to secure our borders.
“It is thanks to the prompt action of the harbour staff, the swift response of the police and the thorough investigation subsequently conducted by my Immigration Enforcement officers that Bridgeman and Laci have been brought to justice
“This investigation and these subsequent prison sentences should serve as a warning to anyone thinking of abusing our immigration rules. You will be caught, and you will face imprisonment.”
When interviewed the 14 illegal migrants were indentified as 13 men and one minor all from Albania.
Twelve of the men were taken into immigration detention and have since been removed from the UK.
The thirteenth has an outstanding application with the Home Office.
The minor was passed to the care of social services
Anyone with information about suspected immigration abuse can contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 anonymously or visit http://www.crimestoppers-uk.org.