Baby-faced people smuggler packed migrants into vans with hidden compartments

A people smuggler extorted desperate migrants £12,000 to transport them to Britain from France.

Sangar Khalid Mohammed, who used a car wash to hide his crimes, and light aircraft pilot Billy Hems cashed in by charging people small fortunes each to enter the country.

Their joint operation managed two successful migrations by air and road until it was busted by multiple authorities, leading to the sentencing of Mohammed and Hems on Friday.

Worcester Crown Court heard that Hems flew migrants to an airfield in Shotteswell, Warwickshire in 2019 after he had been recruited to drop migrants at rural UK airfields on under-the-radar dawn flights.

Hems was then tasked with sneaking them into secret ‘hides’ on board vans, BirminghamLive reports.

Behind the scenes, Mohammed was charging desperate people a small fortune – £12,000 per person.

His Honour Judge Jackson told the pair: "Both of you were involved in a conspiracy to bring immigrants illegally in to this country.

"It involved two successful migrations, one by plane driven by Mr Hems and another in a van.

"This was a conspiracy to bring migrants in by a variety of different methods of transport – by plane, by vehicle, by boat."

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The court also heard that officers from the West Midlands Regional Organised Crime Unit gathered vital intelligence and evidence which led to their downfall.

Mohammed, aged 32, was arrested from his Symonds Yat home on October, 17 2019 at the same time seven Kurdish migrants, including a child, were being transported under his remote orders to Ghent in Belgium.

Inquiries revealed Mohammed was working with Hems as part of a widespread smuggling conspiracy.

"Mr Mohammed, you were actively recruiting others to take part in these activities," His Honour Judge Jackson said.

In September 2018, a VW van owned by 24-year-old Hems was stopped by French Police in Dunkirk with three migrants on board.

The driver and passenger, both British nationals, were later jailed in France and a phone found in the van was linked to the car wash run by Mohammed.

It was then discovered Hems, from Rye Croft in Hollywood, regularly flew between the UK and Amiens, France, in 2018 on suspected smuggling trips to countryside airfields, and he was later arrested on October 18, 2019.

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"In your case Mr Hems, you were much younger," Judge Jackson said. "It's something of a tragedy you have thrown away your pilot's licence."

Mohammed and Hems both admitted conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration, with Mohammed also admitting drugs supply. They were jailed for seven and a half years, and two and a half years respectively.

Detective Inspector Julie Woods said: “This was a great piece of joint working between ourselves, immigration and the Belgian Police to bring down an established people smuggling gang."

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