Fifth man jailed over bid to smuggle 69 migrants into UK on boat
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A fifth member of a gang that tried to smuggle 69 people into the UK on a converted fishing boat has been jailed, after his sentencing was delayed as he isolated with Covid-19 symptoms.
Latvian national Aleksandrs Gulpe, 44, was jailed for eight years at Chelmsford Crown Court, the National Crime Agency said.
His four co-defendants were jailed at the same court in December.
A single trip stood to make more than £1 million for the criminals involved, and trips were planned to happen at least weekly, the court was told.
But the crew caught the attention of authorities, first off the coast of Sweden where the boat ran aground, and later in the UK, where it was intercepted with 69 Albanian migrants on board, including two pregnant women.
Charlene Sumnall, prosecuting, said the near 30m-long trawler was sourced from Latvia and had been “chosen for the very reason that she was cheap”.
She said the venture was “far more sophisticated than small boat crossings, dinghies and the like” and that criminals were “using the squalid and dangerous conditions on board the Svanic to line their own pockets”.
There were 20 lifejackets on board for 72 people, an earlier trial was told.
Five men were convicted of conspiring to assist unlawful immigration, with 35-year-old Arturas Jusas, of Wandsworth Road, Lambeth, admitting the offence, and four others found guilty after a trial.
Jusas, 39-year-old Kfir Ivgi, of Corrigan Close, Finchley, and Sergejs Kuliss, 32, of Albert Basin Way, Newham, were described by prosecutors as “UK-based organisers”.
Jusas was jailed for nine years and nine months, Ivgi for 10 years and Kuliss for nine years.
Latvian national Aleksandrs Gulpe, 44, and 57-year-old Ukrainian national Igor Kosyi, both described by prosecutors as crew members, were arrested when the boat reached land in the early hours of November 18.
Kosyi was jailed for seven years and Gulpe, who was sentenced on Friday, was jailed for eight years.
In mitigation, it was said that none of the migrants were injured and the vessel was “fundamentally seaworthy” but there were “some mishaps that were the fault of the clumsy crew”.
A sixth defendant, Ukrainian national Volodymyr Mykhailov, 49, who the court heard was arrested when the boat reached land, was cleared of the charge.