Pilot jailed for six years for attempting to smuggle migrants into Seething airfield
- Credit: Archant
A pilot who attempted to smuggle three people into the UK at an isolated Norfolk airfield has been jailed today for six years.
Algirdas Barteska, 61, was convicted at Norwich Crown Court on three counts of assisting unlawful immigration into the UK after a five day trial and was sentenced immediately.
Lithuanian national Barteska had been arrested at Seething Airfield on 24 June after three passengers – a man, woman and child - disembarked from his Cessna plane. As Barteska, who had kept the light aircraft's engine running, started to taxi back towards the runway Border Force officers moved in.
Assistant Director Charlotte Mann, from Border Force's East Anglia Command, said: 'Border Force carries out detailed risk assessments and our officers physically meet any suspicious flights. We had been monitoring suspicious movements and it is testament to our intelligence gathering work with domestic and international partners that we were in place to make the arrest.'
After Barteska's arrest the investigation was handed to the Immigration Enforcement's Criminal and Financial Investigations Team.
Immigration checks on the three passengers found that they were all Albanian nationals with no permission to be in the UK. Barteska insisted that he was unaware of the UK's immigration rules and that he had not provided details in advance to Border Force on his passengers because he did not believe he was required to do so.
He said that he had been told that the people he was carrying were interested in buying the plane and that he had been asked to take them on a test flight from Dinslaken Airfield in Germany to Nottingham and back.
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He added that he had carried out an emergency landing at Seething because two of the passengers had been suffering from sickness as a result of turbulence.
When officers searched Barteska, they found him in possession of just over 5,000 Euros.
Chief Immigration Officer, Adam Hutton, from the Criminal and Financial Investigations Team, said: 'Barteska has 43 years flying experience. It stretches credulity to believe that someone with such a background could genuinely believe he was entitled to bring three people into the UK without establishing whether they had the right to enter the country.
'The reality is that he agreed to deliberately try to circumvent the UK's immigration controls in exchange for money.
'Barteska's offences struck at the very heart of immigration control and his conviction today sends a clear message that this kind of criminality will be severely dealt with.'
Barteska will be considered for deportation at the end of his sentence.
The cash and the plane were both seized and have been formally forfeited as part of today's court proceedings.
Anyone with information about suspected immigration abuse can contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 anonymously or visit http://www.crimestoppers-uk.org.