Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Three in Court after Men Found in Truck at Ferry Terminal; ACCUSED TRIO DENY ANY PART IN PEOPLE SMUGGLING

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Three in Court after Men Found in Truck at Ferry Terminal; ACCUSED TRIO DENY ANY PART IN PEOPLE SMUGGLING

Article excerpt

Byline: ROB KENNEDY Court Reporter rob.kennedy@ncjmedia.co.uk @ChronicleCourt

AN alleged people smuggling plot was smashed when a lorry at a Tyneside ferry terminal was found with 20 illegal immigrants hidden among its cargo, a court heard.

Newcastle Crown Court was told a search of a truck which came into the UK on a ferry at North Shields uncovered 19 Albanians and a Syrian man on September 1 2015.

Prosecutors told the court customs officers opened the back of the HGV and noticed a foisty smell and "saw feet within the lorry".

It is alleged Ferdinand Gjolla organised a conspiracy to smuggle people with the help of others, including brother-in-law Armand Mekolli and truck driver Marek Niedziechi, which all three deny.

Paul Abrahams, prosecuting, told jurors: "They conspired with each other, and others unknown, it was not a closed agreement, to facilitate unlawful entry to a member state of the European Union. "We say these three men, with others we cannot identify, agreed to smuggle people into the UK who had no right to remain.

"It is the Crown's case Gjolla is the organiser, he facilitated it, set it up, did the running around, organising. Niedziechi is the transporter. Mekolli is there to assist Gjolla move the people once they are in the UK."

The court heard a sealed HGV driven by Niedziechi, who worked for a firm based in Warsaw, Poland, was stopped at North Shields Ferry Terminal on September 1 2015, having arrived from Holland.

It was carrying electrical equipment to be delivered to a firm in Cramlington and Niedziechi denies he knew about the illegal cargo of people.

Prosecutor Paul Abrahams told the court: "An officer asked him to open the door fully and, after the door was fully opened, the officer noticed a foisty smell.

"On further investigation, she saw feet within the lorry.

"On inspection, a number of people were found within the lorry."

Niedziechi, 33, told investigators he had travelled from Rimini in Italy, through Luxembourg, Belgium and Rotterdam to the Netherlands, then on to the UK.

He denied knowing there were people being smuggled in the back of his lorry and told detectives: "It was not on purpose. …

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