People smuggler caught off Suffolk coast is jailed

A group of people, thought to be migrants, waiting on a Border Force rib to come ashore at Dover mar

Border Force officials intercepted the smuggler's vessel - Credit: PA

A man who claimed he was forced to smuggle Albanian asylum seekers into the UK on a yacht via the Suffolk coast after being kidnapped by three men and having a gun pointed at his knee has  been jailed for five years and seven months.

Sentencing 32-year-old Marco Den Hollander, Judge Martyn Levett rejected his claims about being kidnapped and threatened with a gun and said he had been integral part of a “well oiled chain” of people traffickers.

He said that Suffolk had around 120 miles of coastal waters with many miles of isolated beaches, inland creeks and estuaries which made the "under-resourced" area a favoured target for people smugglers.

Den Hollander was arrested after Border Force officials intercepted and boarded his hired yacht ‘Morgana” as it was heading towards Lowestoft from Holland in the early hours on May this year, Ipswich Crown Court heard.

Den Hollander was at the helm of the vessel and four Albanian men, three women, including one who was pregnant, and two children aged four and six were found in the cabin.

Den Hollander claimed the people on board were family friends and that he was bringing them to the UK to visit family.

Den Hollander, of no fixed address, admitted assisting unlawful immigration into the UK in May this year but in a basis of plea, which wasn’t accepted by the prosecution, claimed he had been forced to commit the offence after being kidnapped and threatened with a gun.

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Nathan Palmer, prosecuting, said there were only four life jackets on board the yacht and claimed Den Hollander had been prepared to risk the lives of those on board by sailing at night with insufficient life-jackets.

He said Den Hollander had no links to the Albanians, who had now claimed asylum in this country.

Den Hollander told the court he had agreed to bring a group of Albanians to the UK to visit family as a favour to a friend and had then been forced to allow an extra woman and two children on board after he was forced into a Mercedes car in Holland by three men and had a gun held at his knee.

He said the men knew his partner’s name and address and had made threats towards him and her.

Cross-examined by Mr Palmer he denied his claims about being kidnapped and threatened were “ a work of fiction.”

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