A high-ranking member of an organised crime group thought to be behind the transportation of hundreds of people has been jailed.
Noor Ullah was identified by the National Crime Agency (NCA) as a key player who moved asylum seekers across the Channel from France into Kent and vice versa.
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The 29-year-old, of Church Lane, Leytonstone, was arrested during a series of NCA raids in east London in May 2021.
The group, with connections in both Europe and Asia, is reported to have used predominately Romanian lorries.
Among those attempting to leave the UK using their services included a man wanted for child abuse offences and another wanted for murder.
Ullah initially denied the charges against him, but on the first day of his trial he pleaded guilty to conspiring to smuggle people out of the UK.
He was sentenced to two-years-and-five-months in prison today at Snaresbrook Crown Court in Redbridge.
NCA senior investigating officer Chris Hill said: "People smugglers like Ullah do not care about safety or border security – that was evident from the fact that the crime group he was part of was happy to help individuals wanted for serious criminal offences to try and escape the UK.
"The group used both complicit drivers and some who had their trucks broken into and therefore had no idea they were carrying migrants.
"They looked to maximise their profits by ensuring the lorries carried people both into and out of the UK.
"We are determined to do all we can to target, disrupt and dismantle the criminal gangs involved in organised immigration crime, and this investigation is one example of many which shows us doing that."
The conviction follows a lengthy investigation into people smuggling, codenamed Operation Symbolry.
A second man arrested as part of the same investigation, Mohammed Mokter Hossain, 52, of Gaynes Hill Road, Woodford Green, has pleaded guilty to conspiring to move people into and out of the UK.
He is due to be sentenced following a Newton Hearing in May 2022.
Anyone with information about this type of illegal activity, particularly lorry drivers who we know can be approached by organised criminals, should call their local police on 101 or contact the charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.