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Immigrant smugglers jailed

PUBLISHED: 07:57 10 December 2002 | UPDATED: 13:09 03 March 2010

TWO members of an international people-smuggling ring have been jailed for three years for trying to bring illegal immigrants into Bawdsey.

Norwegian Eugen Bjelland, 63, and Phillipe Longatte, 57, from Lille, in France, admitted charges of trying to smuggle illegal immigrants from Burma and Pakistan into Suffolk when they appeared at Bury St Edmunds Crown Court.

TWO members of an international people smuggling ring have been jailed for three years for trying to bring illegal immigrants into Bawdsey.

Norwegian Eugen Bjelland, 63, and Phillipe Longatte, 57, from Lille, France, admitted charges of trying to smuggle illegal immigrants from Burma and Pakistan into Suffolk when they appeared at Bury St Edmund's Crown Court.

Simon Spence, prosecuting, said the operation had been discovered on the afternoon of July 8 when the harbour master at Felixstowe spotted three men rowing towards Bawdsey in a dinghy. He alerted the Thames coastguard who then discovered the men on the beach – one of them was Longatte who said he was having problems with his boat.

The police then arrived and discovered that with Longatte were two men who said they were from Burma. Longatte was arrested on suspicion of being concerned in facilitating arrangements for illegal immigrants.

"Other officers then attended and were taken out to the Dutch-registered yacht the Sea Witch, from where the dinghy had come," Mr Spence said. "On board were Mr Bjelland and six Indian males – eight illegal entrants at the hands of these defendants."

The yacht was towed to Shotley, where police were waiting.

Rory Keene, for Bjelland, of no fixed abode, said the defendant had been living in a Dutch port on the boat, registered as belonging to his wife, and only agreed to the trip through desperation.

Mr Keene described the trip as a "shambolic and hopeless" attempt to smuggle people into the country, for which Bjelland had been offered £1,500 in total.

Hugh Vass, mitigating for Longatte, said the father-of-two had taken to crime after being wrongly jailed in 1997 when a former employee of his used Longatte's car in a robbery. Longatte served 11 months before his conviction was overturned on appeal. However, he began sailing with another man who led him to commit this offence.

Both men were jailed for three years and an order was made for the yacht and its contents to be forfeited. Two others involved in the ill-fated operation, Hussain Abid, 31, of Lacourneuve, France, and Devinderjit Singh, 41, of Gravesend, have also pleaded guilty to charges of facilitating illegal entrants and were due to be sentenced today.

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