‘Ruthless criminals’ jailed after people smuggling attempt for £5,000
PUBLISHED: 16:50 05 November 2020 | UPDATED: 16:50 05 November 2020
Two criminals branded “ruthless” by the home secretary have been jailed for two-and-a-half years after attempting to smuggle two Albanian men into Southwold for £5,000.
Denys Khvatkov, 19, and 39-year-old Bohdan Lutskyi were arrested after Border Force officers were alerted to a suspicious yacht en route to the UK by the Dutch coastguard.
A Border Force cutter monitored the yacht as it made its way towards the Suffolk coast from the Netherlands, before mooring at Southwold Harbour shortly after 9am on July 31.
Border Force officers were waiting and searched the vessel, finding Khvatkov, Lutskyi and two Albanian men who had no leave to enter the UK.
Khvatkov, who had been seen steering the yacht, and Lutskyi, who was seen tying the vessel up on the harbourside, were both arrested on suspicion of facilitating a breach of the UK’s immigration laws, before enquiries were passed to Immigration Enforcement’s Criminal and Financial Investigation (CFI) team.
When interviewed, one of the Albanian men confirmed they had agreed to pay Khvatkov and Lutskyi £5,000 to be smuggled into the UK.
In mitigation, the court heard that the operation, sailing from the Netherlands to the UK, was an “ill-conceived, amateurish plan”.
Officers also found Khvatkov and Lutskyi, both Ukrainian nationals with no fixed UK address, in possession of counterfeit International Yacht Training cards, falsely indicating the pair had significant maritime experience.
After pleading guilty at an earlier hearing, both men were sentenced on Thursday, November 5, at Norwich Crown Court.
Home secretary Priti Patel said: “These men are shameless, ruthless criminals who have made money by smuggling people into the UK illegally and our law enforcement agencies, at home and abroad, are disrupting these gangs.
“We will not tolerate law breakers who, through this international criminal trade, are elbowing the most vulnerable to one side.”
Speaking at the sentencing hearing, Judge Stephen Holt said: “On a warm summer’s evening, July 31, you sailed in a small yacht into the port of Southwold in Suffolk.
“Border officers were there to greet you.
“One of you was at the helm, Khvatkov, and Lutskyi appeared to be acting as crew to tie the vessel up.
“On board were two Albanians clearly being smuggled into the country.
“They were taken ashore, applied for asylum, were provided with accommodation and promptly disappeared into the community.”
Paperwork found aboard the yacht showed it was bought in Khvatkov’s name on July 14, but the judge said: “I’m fairly sure he wasn’t Mr Big.”
He said it was “clear” that the men were smuggling the two strangers for money, adding: “I’ve no doubt there was an organisation behind you and above you and you were the ones who were taking the risk and you’re the ones standing in the dock now.”
He told them: “Illegal immigration into the UK causes huge problems for this country and those already living legally in the community.
“Overcrowded hospitals, overcrowded schools, and the Court of Appeal have said on several occasions that deterrent sentences should be applied in these sort of cases.”
The judge said that once they are released, he has “no doubt the immigration authorities will have you on a plane straight out of the country.”
Michael Clare, mitigating for Khvatkov, said: “He’s not a wily, business-like importer of human beings.
“He’s a young fool who because he has the ability to sail has in all likelihood been put up to doing this job.”
He said it was an “ill-conceived, amateurish plan”, adding: “He can’t even speak English.
“He can say ‘no’ and ‘I’m 19’.”
Khvatkov said he was married without children and worked as a builder in Ukraine, Mr Clare said.
Jude Durr, mitigating for Lutskyi, said that he was “recruited to this enterprise” and the men “would have stuck out like a sore thumb” arriving at Southwold.
Lutskyi said he was paid 1,000 US dollars for the job, Mr Durr said, adding that he was a mechanic by trade.
During the sentencing hearing, the judge also ordered the forfeiture of the yacht and its contents, which will now be sold and the proceeds returned to the public purse.
The two Albanian nationals have since made immigration applications, which are currently being processed.
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