A lorry driver who tried to smuggle migrants out of the UK, including an alleged child sex offender, has been jailed for six years.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) said Sebastian Gabriel Podar, 48, was arrested at the port of Dover on December 2 last year as part of its long-running Operation Symbolry.
His vehicle was being monitored by officers’ investigating an organised crime group alleged to be behind the smuggling of hundreds of migrants in and out of the UK in lorries.
Nine migrants were found in the back of his HGV which had been booked to travel on a ferry to France.
Among the group of nine was a 39-year-old Bangladeshi man under investigation for child sexual offences by police in Nottinghamshire, the NCA said.
The man was later charged with 20 offences.
The other eight migrants, of Indian, Algerian and Bangladeshi nationality, were handed to immigration authorities.
The NCA said Podar, from Tuzrii in Romania, was previously stopped on October 16 in the same lorry by police in the Edmonton area of north London, when six migrants were found inside the vehicle.
Podar was charged with two counts of “attempting to facilitate a breach of immigration law”, the NCA said.
The agency said he had initially denied the charges, but midway through a trial at Canterbury Crown Court he changed his plea to guilty.
He was sentenced to six years in prison on Wednesday, the NCA added.
NCA branch operations manager Chris Hill 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.”
Podar’s sentencing came on the same day that more than 130 NCA officers carried out a series of raids across east London targeting the alleged organisers of a people smuggling network.
The raids resulted in two men being charged with “conspiring to facilitate illegal immigration”, the NCA said.
Mohammed Mokter Hossain, 52, and Noor Ullah, 28, appeared before Barkingside Magistrates’ Court on Friday where they were remanded in custody until an appearance at Snaresbrook Crown Court on June 17.
Six other men arrested were all released under investigation.