Ringleaders of an organised crime group have been jailed in France for smuggling migrants to the UK on small boats, the National Crime Agency (NCA) has said.
Rozi Khan Sarwari, age unknown, Zaman Zahid, 31, Arman Kuba, age unknown, and Mohammed Fazel Ahmadi, 39, were jailed for a total of 21 years and fined a total of 105,000 euros.
They will be banned indefinitely from French territory after serving the sentences.
Rokai Ahmadi, 21, Nesar Ahmad, 28, Shir-Ahmad Husseinkhel, 27, Fahim Ahmadi, 31, and Zahid Azizi, 28, were handed a combination of smaller jail terms, suspended sentences and lower level fines.
All nine were each convicted of aiding the illegal residence of a foreigner in France as part of an organised crime group and criminal conspiracy under French law.
According to the NCA, the gang – based in the Paris area – would buy second-hand boats and lifejackets online before travelling to the northern French coast to bury equipment in sand dunes near Wimereux, in the Pas-de-Calais region.
Each inflatable boat could carry between 10 and 15 migrants, usually Vietnamese or Afghan nationals, who would be charged between 1,500 and 4,000 euro (£1,327 and £3,540) each to get to the UK.
The NCA believes the group made between 79,000 and 212,000 euro (£69,910 and £187,611) from the venture.
They were linked to at least four small boat events aimed at smuggling migrants to the UK.
The gang was dismantled after a multi-agency operation – involving the NCA and French law enforcement – which launched an investigation into the network in November 2020.
NCA deputy director Oliver Higgins said: “Tackling organised immigration crime is top priority for the NCA, and we now have more than 90 active investigations into people smuggling or trafficking.
“Much of the criminality involved in these small boat crossings lies outside the UK, so we have built up our intelligence-sharing effort with law enforcement partners in France, Belgium and beyond.
“This includes having NCA officers based in those countries, sharing intelligence and working side by side on joint investigations. And, as this case demonstrates, this is bringing operational results in the form of arrests and prosecutions.
“We are determined to do all we can to disrupt and dismantle these networks, who are putting lives at risk.”
Sarwari was jailed for six years and fined 30,000 euro (£26,500) while Zahid, Kuba and Mohammed Fazel Ahmadi were each jailed for five years and fined 25,000 euro (£22,120).
Rokai Ahmadi, Ahmad and Azizi were each given a one year suspended jail sentence. Azizi was additionally fined 1,500 euro (£1,327).
Husseinkhel was sentenced to eight months suspended imprisonment and fined 1,000 euro (£884).
Fahim Ahmadi was jailed for one year, handed an additional four year suspended prison sentence and fined 15,000 euro (£13,274).