FIVE members of a "prolific" criminal gang that smuggled Sri Lankans into the UK are behind bars, after an investigation involving polices forces across Europe.

Amongst them was Kamalanesan Kandiah (pictured) , who was arrested at his home in Balmoral Drive, Hayes, in May last year during coordinated raids across the UK, France and Germany.

During the trial of three of the men, the court heard how the gang smuggled illegal immigrants through channel ports, and charged their 'clients' around £4,500 for the service.

Many of the smuggling attempts were foiled by Border Force officers, who discovered stowaways hiding in vehicles stopped at ports in Calais, Dunkerque, Coquelles and Dover.

Of those who reached the UK, some would also travel on to North America using falsified documents. Investigations are ongoing to find the people who entered the UK illegally.

The operation was brought down after an investigation involving the Home Office, Kent Police, the National Crime Agency (NCA), Europol and French, German and Swiss law enforcement agencies.

The suspects were all charged with conspiring to facilitate illegal immigration in August last year.

The gang's ringleader, 37-year-old Sudharsan Jeyakodi, of Bradley Road, Luton, and Chubramanian Vignarajah, 42, of Aurelia Road, Croydon, each admitted the offence, and were jailed for five years and four months, and three years and four months respectively.

The following three defendants denied the charge, but were convicted after an eight-week trial.

Kamalanesan Kandiah being arrested by Home Office Criminal Investigations officers at his home in Hayes
Kamalanesan Kandiah being arrested by Home Office Criminal Investigations officers at his home in Hayes
 

Kandiah, 39 (pictured during his arrest, above) was sentenced to five years. John Anes Soundaranayagam Uvais, of Mitcham Road, East Ham, was jailed for five years, and British national Amarjit Mudhar, 46, of Brick Lane, Northolt, for four years and eight months.

All were sentenced at Maidstone Crown Court on Wednesday last week.

David Fairclough, from the Home Office Immigration Enforcement Criminal Investigations unit, said: "This international organised crime gang conspired to smuggle desperate people into the UK purely for their own financial gain.

"They were major players in bringing Sri Lankan nationals to the UK illegally but thanks to the cooperation of agencies across Europe they have been stopped."

Head of Frontier Operations at Kent Police, Superintendent Martin Very, added: "A sophisticated and prolific international organised crime group, that smuggled dozens of people into the UK through Kent Ports, has been dismantled and brought to justice.

"Working with other law enforcement agencies, specialist officers at Kent Police played a pivotal role in identifying, tracking and arresting these criminals who sought to exploit our geographic location as both the gateway to the UK and Europe."

Anyone who has information about immigration crime should contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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