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Man guilty of people smuggling

PUBLISHED: 15:40 10 October 2001 | UPDATED: 15:18 03 March 2010

A Lithuanian man has today been found guilty of helping to smuggle illegal immigrants into Suffolk.

Egidijus Rutkauskas, 33, was convicted of facilitating illegal entry of immigrants into Levington Marina in May this year.

A Lithuanian man has been found guilty of helping to smuggle illegal immigrants into Suffolk.

Egidijus Rutkauskas, 33, was convicted of facilitating illegal entry of immigrants into Levington Marina in May this year.

He had denied the charge but a jury at Ipswich Crown Court found him guilty after a two-day trial.

Rutkauskas was arrested with his father-in-law Romauldas Janavicius, 63, when the yacht Marija was seized on May 6 at Levington Marina.

The pair both from Garliava were with seven men and four women who had all sailed in the vessel from Belgium.

In November 1999 Rutkauskas and Janavicius were arrested when the Marija was seized at Lowestoft Harbour having sailed from Holland.

Rutkauskas was released without charge and Janavicius, who owned the yacht, was jailed in April 2000 for seven months after admitting helping to smuggle illegal immigrants into Suffolk.

Immigration officers on the continent carried out surveillance on the Marija from August 2000 as it was seen at various ports in Holland and Belgium.

A month before it sailed to Suffolk the Marija was seen by Dutch immigration officers with five men working on it including Rutkauskas and Janavicius.

Five days before the joint smuggling enterprise Rutkauskas told immigration officers the boat had been prepared to go and pick up a new mast.

The vessel was re-fuelled on May 5 and sailed a day later with the five crew and eight Lithuanians – four men and four women.

The jury was told Rutkauskas was found with more than £3,000 mainly in US dollars which he claimed was mostly his father-in-law's and was not proceeds from the passengers for their illegal journey.

Father of one Rutkauskas who lives with his father in Lithuania said he was angry and upset when he found out the yacht was heading for England.

He thought the boat had been heading for a French port and said he had been suffering from sea sickness when his father-in-law must have changed course for England.

The defence claimed that Janavicius told his son in law to "shut up" and to "mind your own business" and that he was a man who always liked to be "top dog".

But the jury believed the prosecution case that Rutkauskas was Janavicius' partner in the smuggling operation and was not some sort of dupe.

Janavicius had pleaded guilty to facilitating the entry of illegal immigrants at a previous court hearing last month.

Judge Nicholas Beddard adjourned sentence for reports.

Both men will be sentenced later this month.

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