A Shipley businessman tried to bring illegal immigrants from Iraq into the country as part of an international people smuggling operation run from his car wash.
Ali Mahmoud Ahmed, 38, who lived at and owned the Pit Stop car wash, Valley Road, was jailed for three years today for his role in the scheme to bring illegal migrants from Iraq, through Europe and into the UK hidden inside vehicles in 2014.
Ahmed, a naturalised British citizen, pleaded not guilty to the charges but was found guilty by a jury in October and sentenced today at Bradford Crown Court.
Evidence gathered over a year by Home Office investigators caught Ahmed making detailed plans for the smuggling operations and discussing price per person packages with would-be couriers to make trips to Turkey, Belgium, Greece and Italy to smuggle Iraqis into the UK.
As part of an “intelligence-led” Home Office probe, investigators worked with the National Crime Agency and other international law enforcement agencies.
They found Ahmed was offering up to £8,000 to would-be drivers to make journeys across Europe to collect migrants and smuggle them into the UK.
Last year the Home Office foiled nearly 40,000 attempts to cross the channel illegally, more than double the number prevented the previous year.
Immigration Minister James Brokenshire said: “We are determined to crack down on the vile trade of people smuggling and bring those responsible to justice.
“As this case demonstrates, our specialist teams of investigators will identify those responsible and put them before the courts. Joint working between French and British law enforcement agencies is also making it harder for criminals to pierce our borders.
“Those who try to profit from society’s most desperate should know that they will be caught and they will end up in prison.”
Craig Hobbs, of the Immigration Enforcement crime team for West Yorkshire, said: “Our investigators have thwarted a serious, detailed and advanced people smuggling plan.
“Ahmed plotted to bring desperate people into the UK illegally purely for his own financial gain.
“This investigation involved joint working between our own highly trained teams and law enforcement agencies across Europe.
“It demonstrates that we have the skills to ensure that the criminals involved in this evil practice are caught and put behind bars.”