A PORTSMOUTH man who tried to smuggle 11 Iraqis into the UK claiming he was acting on humanitarian grounds has been jailed.
Border Force officers stopped a Mercedes van being driven by Aram Tadevossian, 56, at the UK inward tourist controls at the Channel Tunnel in Coquelles, France, on November 30 last year.
This conviction shows how our dedicated and specialist teams are cracking down on the criminals involved in the vile trade of people smugglingTony Erne
Tadvossian, of Goldsmith Avenue, Southsea, claimed he had been visiting his property near Aubsusson in France.
But when officers searched his van they found 11 people – six adults and five children all from Iraq – hiding in a purpose-built hide under a shelf in the rear of the van.
Tadevossian was arrested and the investigation passed to Immigration Enforcement Criminal Investigation officers.
He was charged with assisting unlawful immigration into the UK on 11 December.
A Home Office spokeswoman said on Monday a judge at Canterbury Crown Court declined to accept Tadevossian’s defence that he had acted on humanitarian grounds and ruled he had acted for financial gain.
Tadevossian was jailed for four and a half years on Tuesday.
Deputy Director Tony Erne, from the Immigration Enforcement Criminal Investigations team, said: ‘This conviction shows how our dedicated and specialist teams are cracking down on the criminals involved in the vile trade of people smuggling.
‘The sentence handed out should serve as a warning to anyone tempted to get involved with this kind of criminality. We will catch you, and put you before the courts.
‘We will continue to work closely with Border Force colleagues to rigorously investigate allegations of immigration related criminality.’
The group of 11 illegal migrants, comprising six adults and five children, all from Iraq were passed to the French Police Aux Frontières.
Tadevossian pleaded guilty to assisting unlawful immigration into the UK in March.