People smuggler jailed for nearly three years after sailing ‘dangerous’ yacht towards Lowestoft with 12 migrants
A people smuggler has been jailed for nearly three years after steering a ‘dangerous’ yacht towards Lowestoft carrying 12 Albanian migrants – including children.
Eduard Mucaj, 50, was detained by Border Force officers last August after he sailed an ‘overcrowded and badly equipped yacht’ across the North Sea towards the Suffolk coast.
The Home Office said the yacht had a faulty engine, no safety equipment and was more than three times its capacity.
None of those on board had life jackets or harnesses apart from Mucaj, who was seen at the helm wearing a life jacket, waterproofs and boots.
Mucaj was arrested on suspicion of facilitating illegal entry to the UK and attempting to arrive to the country without a valid entry clearance.
He later pleaded guilty to both charges.
Yesterday, he was sentenced at Ipswich Crown Court to two years and eight months in prison.
Two of the migrants had previously been handed deportation orders and were banned from entering the UK.
They have since been removed from the country.
Michael Tomlinson, minister for illegal migration, said: “Evil people smugglers will go to any length to profit from people seeking to reach our shores illegally.
“This shocking case saw lives recklessly endangered, with people crammed on board a death-trap with no regard for their safety or the law.”
Mucaj set sail from Den Oever in the Netherlands in the early hours of August 9.
He was tracked by Dutch authorities who monitored the yacht’s movement as it sailed erratically towards Lowestoft.
The Dutch coastguard alerted the Home Office when Mucaj failed to respond to their attempts to make contact with the vessel.
The yacht was intercepted two days later by a Border Force patrol vessel as it entered UK territorial waters.
The Home Office’s Criminal and Financial Investigation team worked with their Dutch counterparts to gather evidence in the aftermath of the smuggling attempt.
Authorities in the Netherlands were able to provide evidence that linked Mucaj to the purchase of the yacht.
Chris Foster, deputy director of criminal and financial Investigations at the Home Office, said: “People smugglers are going to increasingly extreme lengths to bring people into the UK illegally.
“The sentence reflects the severity of this brazen smuggling attempt that spanned over 120 nautical miles of open seas.
“I want to thank my teams who work tirelessly to investigate those responsible for these crimes and ensure they are brought to justice.”