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Human-traffickers’ gang leader given a four-year sentence

THE leader of a human-trafficking gang, who brought more than 100 migrants into the UK inside refrigerated lorries, has been jailed for four years in Spain.

Iraqi-born Shwana Rafiq put the lives of whole families at risk by hiding them in freezing-cold trailers in which temperatures could fall below 4°C.

The 36-year-old was sentenced after he admitted playing a lead role in an international criminal gang, who organised operations involving the smuggling of Kurds into Britain and Ireland.

Spanish police believe Shwana’s gang were responsible for smuggling more than 100 people into the UK between 2017 and 2018, earning up to €1m in the process.

He was jailed after striking a pre-trial plea bargain deal with prosecutors at a Spanish court in the Teruel province of Aragon after being arrested in January last year.

State prosecutors had initially been seeking a 14-year prison term for Spanish expat Shwana, on charges of money-laundering and human-trafficking.

His Spanish wife, Esperanza Martinez, who was facing a prison sentence of up to 12 years before admitting to being his accomplice, was given a two-year jail term for human trafficking.

This will be suspended, as is common under Spanish law for first-time offenders, condemned to under two-years’ jail time.

Five other people linked to the people-smuggling organisation were given prison sentences, ranging from six months to a year.

The Spanish police operation was sparked by the discovery of six Iraqis, including four children, in the back of a UK-bound refrigerated lorry at a service station near Teruel.

They alerted the unsuspecting lorry driver of their plight by screaming for help, hours after being hidden in the trailer by Shwana, who broke into it, then locked it back up with them inside.

The following month, eight Turkish and Iraqi migrants, including another four children, were discovered in almost identical circumstances, in a second UK-bound lorry, near the same spot.

Describing the organisation’s methods, a Spanish National Police spokesman told the Daily Mail: “It consisted of the introduction of groups of between six and eight people, generally families with young children including babies just months old, in the back of refrigerated trucks bound for the UK.

“The members of the organisation would try to obtain detailed information about the destination of the vehicles. And, while the driver was resting overnight, they smuggled people into the cargo hold, without him realising.

“The normal length of stay would be between 30-40 hours, at temperatures of no more than four degrees Celsius.

“The gang were conscious of the risks these sorts of journeys entailed, and they acted with complete disdain for the lives and well-being of the people they were trying to smuggle into Britain.

“At times, they even resorted to hitting those who had panic attacks while they were travelling, or giving them drugs to calm them down.

“The price people were charged increased considerably, if they requested the presence of a smuggler inside the back of the lorry to help them.”

Teruel’s three sentencing judges said: “Given the low temperatures they travelled in, which were never above four degrees Celsius, there was a clear risk to their life and physical integrity, to the point that, in some cases, the migrants themselves had to raise the alarm so they could be rescued.

“The organisation has organised and participated in a large number of illegal transfers of migrants, and the financial benefits they have obtained would have been high.

“The activities carried out by the criminal gang consisted of transferring unauthorised migrants to different countries in Europe but in the case of this organisation especially, to the United Kingdom.”

The three sentencing judges at the Teruel court said: “Given the low temperatures they travelled in, which were never above four degrees Celsius, there was a clear risk to their life and physical integrity, to the point that in some cases the migrants themselves had to raise the alarm so they could be rescued.

“The organisation has organised and participated in a large number of illegal transfers of migrants and the financial benefits they have obtained would have been high.

“The activities carried out by the criminal gang consisted of transferring unauthorised migrants to different countries in Europe but in the case of this organisation especially, to the United Kingdom.”

 

 

Short URL: http://www.canarianweekly.com/?p=51127

Posted by on Nov 29 2019. Filed under Local News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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