A SERVING soldier from Portsmouth has been cleared of allegations he was part of a ring of smugglers trafficking illegal immigrants from the Calais Jungle into the UK.
David Plumstead, 24, who was based at Barker Barracks in Paderborn, Germany, was on trial this week after being accused of trying to help a fellow soldier in the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment transport two migrants through the Channel Tunnel for a fee of £5,000 each.
He appeared at Maidstone Crown Court alongside car wash owner Zindan Ahmed, 36, of Brompton Street, Middlesbrough, who is accused of financing the transportation of several migrants including his brother.
They were facing a charge of conspiracy to assist in unlawful immigration between November 1 2015 and July 1 2016.
But Judge Philip St John-Stevens ruled there was insufficient evidence for the case to proceed against Mr Plumstead and directed the jury to enter a formal plea of not guilty for him, the Crown Prosecution Service confirmed on Thursday.
Ahmed, who is in the dock with a Kurdish interpreter, continues to stand trial after denying the charge.
The jury previously heard accusations he and Mr Plumstead conspired with Corporal Kyle Harris, 29, who brought three migrants into the UK between March and May 2016 on his trips home on leave.
He met them at a McDonald's restaurant in the town of Coquelles - just outside Calais and close to the entrance to the Channel Tunnel - where he loaded one or two migrants into the boot of his rental car.
The court heard that on April 29 2016, Plumstead accompanied Harris in the car when there was an attempting meeting with an unknown people smuggler at the McDonald's who was due to hand two migrants to Harris to take to the UK.
The meeting was unsuccessful and the two soldiers returned to the UK alone, and Plumstead denied knowing anything about the operation or helping Harris.
Prosecutor Walton Hornsby said: ‘Mr Plumstead accepts that Kyle Harris in the barracks in Paderborn had been boasting about bringing illegal migrants into the UK, but he said he didn't believe him - he was a fairly boastful guy.
‘He says the only reason he got into the car back to the UK was because it was a fairly common arrangement amongst soldiers and often they would give each other lifts back to the UK, and he didn't get into the car as part of any agreement to help or assist Mr Harris.’
Jurors were informed Harris pleaded guilty to his role in the conspiracy in August and is awaiting sentence at the conclusion of the current trial.