Adrian Constantin, 36, was sentenced to three years and two months in prison at Birmingham Crown Court on Wednesday after pleading guilty to conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and failing to appear for an earlier court hearing.
Constantin is the sixth person to be jailed after a people-smuggling operation that saw six attempts to traffic 35 Afghan migrants, including children as young as two and a person with physical disabilities, through Europe to the UK between August and October 2019.
The migrants were screwed into purpose-built coffin-like hides and smuggled into the country in the back of vans.
Constantin acted as a ‘minder’ to facilitate the smuggling attempts, providing assistance to other gang members when they were unavailable and transporting vans and drivers to France from Dover.
The 36-year-old travelled back to the UK on foot while the smuggling attempts took place, the Home Office said.
Constantin, who is a Romanian national, fled to Romania after his first court appearance in 2022 before being arrested and extradited back to the UK by the Home Office and Romanian authorities.
Five other gang members were sentenced in May 2022 after a two-year investigation by Immigration Enforcement’s Criminal and Financial Investigations (CFI) Unit.
Immigration minister Robert Jenrick called the smuggling attempts “despicable”.
He said: “Attempts such as these to smuggle people, including children, into the UK in confined, coffin-like spaces are despicable and clear evidence of why our work to stop these gangs is so important.
“I want to praise the work of our Immigration Enforcement officers who work tirelessly to prevent this activity and thank the Romanian authorities for their co-operation in this case.
“Nobody should be risking their lives to come to the UK illegally. Today’s case shows that we will stop at nothing to crack down on evil people smuggling gangs and bring them to justice.”
Home Office Immigration Enforcement Criminal and Financial Investigations deputy director, Ben Thomas, said: “This is an example of the appalling tactics employed by people-smuggling gangs. These people will think nothing of crushing young children and disabled people into confined spaces and transporting them across Europe for money.
“Our efforts to track down those responsible for smuggling attempts like this one are not limited to UK soil. We will continue to work with our international partners to ensure criminals operating across the UK Border face justice for their crimes.”