People smugglers sentenced for transporting 19 migrants to UK on hired yacht

Yevhenii Vasylkov. Picture: National Crime Agency

Yevhenii Vasylkov. Picture: National Crime Agency - Credit: Archant

Three Ukrainian nationals who were convicted of attempting to smuggle 19 migrants into the UK on a hired yacht have been jailed.

Southwold Harbour.PHOTO: Nick Butcher

Southwold Harbour.PHOTO: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

The trio were arrested after the boat – Flamingo - arrived into Southwold harbour on October 15, 2017, having sailed across the North Sea from the Netherlands.

Shortly after the boat landed, officers from the National Crime Agency (NCA) and the Border Force coastal patrol vessel, 'Alert', moved in and Yevhenii Vasylkov, 30, and Yupi Karakin, 27, were arrested, alongside a number of migrants who were still on the vessel.

Ten migrants had already been transferred for onward transportation into two vehicles, which were stopped by Suffolk Police officers as they drove towards Ipswich. Drivers Yuril Dzhuraniuk, 26, and Mykhailo Riok, 27, were arrested.

All 19 migrants were passed to Immigration Enforcement.

CCTV image of Vasylkov hiring the boat. Picture: National Crime Agency

CCTV image of Vasylkov hiring the boat. Picture: National Crime Agency - Credit: Archant

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Vasylkov pleaded guilty to facilitation charges and, following a trial at Blackfriars Crown Court, Dzhuraniuk and Riok were found guilty on Monday, April 16. Karakin was found not guilty.

On Friday, May 18, Vasylkov was sentenced to three years and three months in prison; Riok and Dzhuraniuk were both sentenced to two years. They will also face deportation at the end of their sentence.

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NCA branch operations manager, Tony Luhman, said: 'This crime group used a vessel that was ill-equipped to make a long sea journey carrying this many people.

'It demonstrates how criminals involved in organised immigration crime are prepared to risk the lives of people for profit. They preyed on the desperation of others to reach the UK.

'Our investigation into the wider criminal network involved here continues. Working with law enforcement partners we will continue to target the networks involved in people smuggling and use all the powers at our disposal to disrupt their activity.'

Rod Lowson, from Border Force Maritime Command, said: 'The case is an excellent example of Border Force's Coastal Patrol Vessels (CPVs) doing exactly what they were designed to do – protect the UK's coastline and intervene swiftly to intercept criminals.

'CPVs work alongside the larger cutters to patrol the UK coastline and visit smaller unmanned ports and beaches. We will continue to work closely with partners like the National Crime Agency to keep our borders secure.'

The investigation formed part of Project Invigor, an NCA-led taskforce that targets the criminal networks behind people smuggling.

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