Man guilty of bid to smuggle Ukrainians into the UK on a yacht

A man has been found guilty of attempting to smuggle six Ukrainians into the UK on board a yacht.

Vladyslav Kurtoglu, 50, was convicted of assisting unlawful immigration at Portsmouth Crown Court.

His co-conspirator,  Dmytro Kruik, 29, had earlier pleaded guilty to the same offence.

The men, both Ukrainian nationals of no fixed UK address, were caught when their yacht The Tazik was intercepted by a Border Force coastal patrol vessel (CPV) near Hayling Island, Hampshire, having sailed from Barfleur, France, on May 20, 2017.

Kruik told Border Force officers that they had come to the UK on what he said was "just a trip" but a search of the vessel found six additional Ukrainian men on board who were later removed from the UK.

A Border Force spokesman said: "Kurtoglu claimed in his defence that after he purchased the yacht, he planned to hold his 50th birthday party on board.

"He wanted to employ the Ukrainians as crew for the event, so had sailed from Barfleur to the middle of the channel to assess their seafaring abilities.

"He then claimed that a huge storm had moved in and the yacht had also developed engine problems.

"Becoming frightened, he said the Ukrainian crew turned on him and threatened to throw him overboard unless he brought them to the UK.

"This story was disproved by evidence from a marine engineer who examined the engine of The Tazik yacht and concluded that it was running smoothly.

"The Met Office provided a marine weather report for the day in question which showed that conditions at the time were calm."

Lyn Sari, from Immigration Enforcement's Criminal and Financial Investigation (CFI) team, said: "My officers work closely with other law enforcement partners, such as the National Crime Agency, who provided valuable assistance with this investigation, to bring people smugglers like Kurtoglu and Kruik to justice.

"Anyone involved in this kind of offending should understand that the consequences are considerable."

The Border Force spokesman said the judge ordered the forfeiture of the yacht, which would now be sold and the proceeds returned to the public purse.

Kurtoglu and Kruik will be sentenced on February 21.

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