London - A smuggler caught trying to sneak a Vietnamese teenager into Britain in a suitcase was on Friday jailed for 18 months.
Romanian Andrei Iancu, 20, was arrested after the stowaway was found crammed into the suitcase in the boot of his car at Dover.
When he was found the boy, believed to be 16 years old, was suffering from severe dehydration and high blood pressure and began having fits. He was described as being critically ill when he was taken to hospital but has since made a full recovery.
Canterbury Crown Court heard that when being questioned Iancu said he had met the teenager at a service station and agreed to smuggle him into the UK for only 200 euros (R3 200).
Iancu’s Skoda Octavia, with Romanian licence plates, was subject to a routine stop by UK Border Force officers as he arrived in Dover following a 90-minute ferry crossing from Calais on May 30.
James Bloomer, prosecuting, said: ‘When asked he indicated that he was Romanian and going to London.
‘The explanation appears to have been initially that he was going to visit his sister. That later changed to become that he was going to visit his girlfriend.’
Iancu claimed the car he was driving was owned by a friend. When officers opened the boot of the car they discovered large bags of crisps and several suitcases.
Mr Bloomer added: ‘It was only when some of the bags were moved that the officers noticed a human arm protruding from part of a suitcase.’
When the youngster was discovered, he was seriously unwell and he started having a seizure.
Iancu, a student at the University of Transylvania, was taken for questioning by UK Border Force officers. He initially told officers he accepted 500 euros to smuggle the migrant into the UK, but later changed the amount to 200 euros. He said he used Google’s translation system to communicate with the Vietnamese youth.
Mr Bloomer said: ‘Here we see there is clear financial gain. We query the considerable convenience of the explanation that it was a chance meeting that led to the commission of this offence.’
Iancu, who pleaded guilty to one count of people smuggling, was also ordered to pay a surcharge of £140. He will serve his sentence in a young offenders’ institution. Tanveer Qureshi, defending, asked Judge Simon James if any prison sentence could be suspended.
He said: ‘We can all see it was for financial gain, but it was not part of a sophisticated operation. No other people were involved and it was not part of a conspiracy.
‘He is an undergraduate. He was taking holidays and came to the UK to find some work and generate some income.’
Judge James said that people smuggling ‘exploits the vulnerable and the desperate’, and courts must impose deterrent sentences to dissuade others.
‘People from less developed nations from all over the world are eager to come to enter the UK,’ he said. ‘They are often prepared to go to lengths to do so and to take considerable risks. Only some seek sanctuary from violence and repression. Others are seeking economic opportunities. There are some that have more sinister intentions.
The judge added: ‘You were motivated by making a quick profit.’
After the case, Detective Inspector Bill Thornton said the boy had made a full recovery, adding: ‘He is extremely fortunate to have survived his ordeal.’ The teenager is now thought to be in the care of Kent social services.