Casino Trip Leads to Prison for Man Accused of Smuggling People Into UK

Posted on: November 30, 2023, 06:40h. 

Last updated on: November 30, 2023, 10:54h.

A Brit involved in smuggling migrants into the UK using a camper van has been sentenced to jail after his alibi was exposed as a fabrication, thanks to a casino receipt. Oozy Hughes, or Mark Newton, as he is also known, could have simply evaded detection by maintaining a lower profile during his travels through Belgium.

Vehicles enter and exit the Harwich International Port in the UK
Vehicles enter and exit the Harwich International Port in the UK. A man who tried to smuggle four people into the UK via the port has been sentenced after a receipt from a casino confirmed his connection to the incident. (Image: PA Images)

A report by the UK government states that in March 2018, British Border Force officers uncovered men hiding inside a van they stopped at Harwich International Port in Essex. Hughes, the driver, claimed he had rented the van for a trip to Spain and returned to the UK by ferry from Santander.

The officers decided to search the van for contraband, which is when they discovered the four hidden passengers who had paid Hughes an unspecified amount of money to take them from Albania to the UK. Hughes would later try to claim that some unknown person must have stowed them in his van.

Truth Comes Out

After the Border Force found the quartet of illegal immigrants, Hughes’ deceptive narrative continued to fall apart. That’s when officers found a casino receipt from northern Belgium in the van. This evidence indicated that he had been there earlier that the same day, participating in a “Fantastic Fridays” competition. The contest for a gold bar weighing 100 grams, worth roughly $6,500, was apparently too much temptation.

Subsequent investigations, including GPS data from the camper van, revealed its travel route through Belgium to the Netherlands. The data also showed that Hughes had rented the van two days earlier, poking more holes in his Spain-bound claim.

Further complicating matters for his failed attempt at an alibi, Home Office Criminal and Financial Investigation teams continued to find evidence that contradicted Hughes’ statements. They discovered calls from his mobile phone to numbers associated with a Belgian trafficking ring.

Consequently, and with no way to deny the evidence, Hughes faced charges of facilitating illegal entry into the UK. He pled guilty and on Wednesday, a Chelmsford Crown Court judge sentenced him to 15 months in prison.

Human Trafficking Invades the UK

The UK is witnessing an increase in human trafficking and slavery. In October, according to the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA), a man British police suspected of orchestrating an operation that smuggled 10K individuals into the UK — all part of a broader pan-European network — was sentenced to 11 years in prison in Belgium.

Hewa Rahimpur directed the operations from his residence in Ilford, East London. From this base, he procured small boats from Turkey and arranged for their delivery to Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands. He would then arrange for the boats to travel from northern France to England via the English Channel.

The NCA reported that Rahimpur’s operation charged anywhere from $3,600 to $7,320 per person. Along with him, 19 others received sentences ranging from 30 months to eight years behind bars.

In 2015, border agents at Harwich International Port found 68 people inside four trucks when they conducted a routine inspection. The vehicles had arrived from the Netherlands, and the individuals — including two pregnant women and several children — had been trying to enter the country illegally.

Essex Lorry Deaths Still Make the News

While that case was only one of many, an incident in Essex four years ago still stands out as the most prominent. The Essex lorry deaths, as the case became known, occurred in October 2019 when 39 Vietnamese migrants were found dead in a refrigerated lorry container in Grays, Essex, UK.

They all died of suffocation in what prosecutors later deemed must have been “excruciatingly painful” deaths. The incident shed light on the dangers and exploitation faced by migrants seeking illegal entry into the UK.

One driver, Maurice Robinson, pleaded guilty to manslaughter charges, as did five others involved in the smuggling operation. When sentenced in 2021, they were imprisoned for terms of three to 20 years, depending on the role they played.