People-smuggling gang jailed for twenty years.
Crime Reporter A gang which made thousands of pounds by offering a 'club class' service to hundreds of illegal immigrants they brought into the Midlands has been jailed for a total of more than 20 years.
Immigrants from India sold land and belongings to raise fees up to pounds 11,000 to be smuggled through ferry ports before being dropped off at their chosen destination as part of a 'doorto-door' service.
They were 'fed and watered' and transported in people carriers by the West Midland-based gang members who were finally caught in a joint British and French surveillance operation codenamed Gular.
The 'unprecedented' close surveillance tactics used by the National Crime Squad to smash the gang are now being rolled out to tackle other people smuggling networks.
The main organisers -Shakean Chahal (29), Talbinder Gill (29), and Lee Ludbrook (43), -were each jailed for five years at Canterbury Crown Court yesterday.
Talbinder Gill, of Raven Road, Walsall, his brother Kalbinder Gill (30), of Lower Forster Street, Walsall, Paul Slater-Mason (38), of Leveson Drive, Tipton, Ludbrook, of Belmont Gardens, Moxley and Chahal, of Meeting Street, Wednesbury, all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to facilitate illegal immigration at an earlier court hearing.
Most of the gang were arrested in June 2003 after police in Kent swooped on people carriers containing 14 illegal immigrants in a lay-by near Canterbury.
The swoop was the culmination of several months work for detectives from the National Crime Squad (NCS) and Kent Police who were first alerted when members of the gang were stopped at ports in 2001.
Judge Timothy Nash told the gang that theirs was a 'sophisticated and elaborate plan designed from the outset to exploit the vulnerable'.
The judge sentenced Kalbinder Gill to four years imprisonment while Slater-Mason was jailed for 12 months.
A sixth defendant -Gurdip Dosanjh (29), of Buckingham Drive, Willenhall, was jailed for 15 months. Police began to investigate in 2001 when members of the gang were stopped at Harwich and Portsmouth.
In June 2002, Kent Police charged some of the smugglers including Chahal but they were bailed by the courts and continued their lucrative venture.
Then in June 2003, British and French detectives followed a runmade through Calais and Dover. The Gill brothers, Ludbrook and Chahal all pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiring to facilitate illegal immigration at a court hearing last year.
Dosanjh -who had been caught smuggling illegal immigrants into the UK in 2002 but not involved at a later stage of the plot -pleaded guilty to one count of the same charge during last year's hearing.
Slater-Mason, a driver who was employed during runs by the gang after June 2002, also admitted one count of the same charge at the hearing in November 2003.
Judge Nash said: 'It is quite obvious from a study of the papers in this case that this was a sophisticated and elaborate plan designed from the outset to exploit the weak and vulnerable and that is its evil.
'Trading the lives of vulnerable people like this is quite wicked.'
Detective Inspector Alan Edwards, from the National Crime Squad's Telford Branch which led the operation, said: 'We are very happy that the operation has come to a successful conclusion.
'It was an unprecedented surveillance set up. We had people watching them, and they had people watching for us, but they never detected us.
'It spanned hundreds of miles and has never been used before to tackle people smuggling, but is being used to halt other networks now.'
Members of the gang who were jailed for people smuggling. Left to right: Kalbinder Gill, Lee Ludbrook, Paul Slater-Mason, Talbinder Gill and Shakean Chahal
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|Publication:||The Birmingham Post (England)|
|Date:||May 29, 2004|
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