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Man tried to smuggle illegal immigrants on catamaran

The catamaran was boarded by Customs at Margate harbour
The catamaran was boarded by Customs at Margate harbour

A MAN has been jailed for four years after trying to bring illegal immigrants into the country through a Kent harbour.

German Fredjtof Thiele, 57, and his partner, Austrian woman Birgit Bilek, 27, were arrested at Margate pier on April 7 by Kent Police officers after the catamaran they were sailing was boarded near the harbour by Customs officers.

They not only discovered the couple from Hamburg, but 13 people purported to be Japanese tourists.

The 13 people were detained by immigration officers as illegal immigrants and it was later determined that they were in fact Chinese, using stolen, lost and forged passports.

A search of the catamaran uncovered Chinese food and mobile phones, and gave officers the impression the vessel was being used for people smuggling, as there was not enough wet weather clothing for the passengers and most of the bunks had no sheets, blankets or pillows.

Thiele pleaded guilty to the charge in Canterbury Crown Court and was sentenced to four years imprisonment. The case against Bilek, who is soon to give birth, has been discontinued.

DC Lee Kidd said: "Thiele’s conviction is the result of a good joint agency investigation involving Kent Police, UK Immigration and HM Revenue and Customs.

"I’m happy with the penalty handed down to Thiele, as it may act as a deterrent to others considering smuggling people into the UK."

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