Man jailed for trying to smuggle Vietnamese nationals in car roof box

A man who tried to smuggle three Vietnamese nationals into the UK crammed into the roof box of his car has been jailed for three years.

The three people – including a 15-year-old girl – were discovered when officers stopped the car and forced open the box.

Irishman Robert Rooney, 35, of Edmonton Green, London, pleaded guilty to facilitating a breach of the UK’s immigration laws and was sentenced on Friday at Canterbury Crown Court, the Home Office confirmed.

Dan Scully, Border Force regional director, said this type of smuggling is “incredibly dangerous” and puts lives at risk.

Pictures released by the Home Office show how cramped the conditions were inside the box.

Robert Rooney
Robert Rooney was jailed for three years (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The Vietnamese nationals were discovered on October 5, 2019, at Coquelles, France, after Rooney’s car was pulled aside by Border Force officers in the UK controlled zone.

Rooney was asked to open the roof box, but claimed he had lost the keys.

However officers then partially forced it open and saw the were people inside.

Rooney was immediately arrested on suspicion of assisting illegal entry into the UK and when officers searched him, they found two keys to the roof box.

Mr Scully said: “Crammed into a confined space inside the roof box must have been terrifying.

“It is thanks to the vigilance of Border Force officers that they were discovered and that Rooney was caught.

“Border Force officers will continue to work with law enforcement colleagues here and in France to ensure that smugglers face the full consequences of their crimes.”

Deputy director Dave Fairclough, from Immigration Enforcement’s Criminal and Financial Investigation (CFI) team, said: “Rooney deliberately placed three people in an extremely precarious situation.

“He was prepared to turn a blind eye to the obvious risks as long as he was benefiting.

“He has rightly been handed a custodial sentence. The message to the callous criminals engaged in immigration related criminality is clear – you will be caught and the consequences will be severe.”

The three Vietnamese nationals involved in the case were handed to the French Police Aux Frontieres.

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