A lorry driver who tried to smuggle migrants out of the UK - including a suspected child sex offender - has been jailed for six years.
Sebastian Gabriel Podar, 48, was arrested as part of a covert operation at the port of Dover in December 2020.
National Crime Agency officers had been investigating an organised crime group behind the trafficking of hundreds of migrants both into and out of Britain in the back of lorries.
Nine migrants were discovered in the rear of Romanian national Podar’s HGV, which was booked to go onto a ferry to France.
Among the nine was a 39-year-old Bangladeshi man under investigation for child sexual offences by Nottinghamshire Police. He was later charged with 20 offences.
The remaining eight migrants, of Indian, Algerian and Bangladeshi nationality, were handed over to the immigration authorities.
Podar, from Tuzrii in Romania, had previously been stopped on October 16 in the same lorry by police in Edmonton, north London. On that occasion six migrants were found inside.
NCA officers charged Podar with two counts of attempting to facilitate a breach of immigration law.
He initially denied the charges, but mid-way through a trial at Canterbury Crown Court he changed his plea to guilty. He was sentenced to six years in prison.
NCA Branch Operations Manager Chris Hill, who ran Operation Symbolry, said: “Criminal gangs involved in people smuggling need complicit lorry drivers like Podar. Their business model depends on it.
“For his part, Podar saw this as an opportunity to make money, but instead he now faces a long prison sentence far away from home.
“I hope this sends out a message to others who would consider doing the same. It simply isn’t worth the risk.
“People smugglers put lives at risk and we are determined to do all we can to disrupt and dismantle the criminal networks involved.”
The conviction and sentencing of Podar came the same day as more than 130 National Crime Agency officers carried out a series of raids across east London targeting the alleged organisers of a people smuggling network.
The raids saw two men charged with conspiring to facilitate illegal immigration.
Mohammed Mokter Hossain, 52, and Noor Ullah, 28, appeared before Barkingside Magistrates on May 21 where they were remanded in custody until the next appearance at Snaresbrook Crown Court in June.
Six other men arrested were all released under investigation.
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