Woolverstone alert to immigrant yacht

FOUR Lithuanian men have been jailed for smuggling illegal immigrants into Suffolk.Two of the men Algimatas Balezentis, 47 and Henrikas Urbanavicius, 28, chartered a yacht in Belgium along with a woman called Rita Gikiene, 27.

FOUR Lithuanian men have been jailed for smuggling illegal immigrants into Suffolk.

Two of the men Algimatas Balezentis, 47 and Henrikas Urbanavicius, 28, chartered a yacht in Belgium along with a woman called Rita Gikiene, 27.

Ipswich Crown Court heard that the three sailed to England carrying seven illegal immigrants in the yacht built to carry five people.

Simon Spence prosecuting said the night dock man at Woolverstone Marina spotted the boat sailing along the River Orwell and alerted police.

The court heard that police were ready to challenge the crew when the yacht docked at Foxes Marina but it changed course suddenly and went back out to sea.

Mr Spence said: "It was tracked by radar. It sailed past Orford, Felixstowe, Southwold then back to Aldeburgh. It was sailing up and down the Suffolk coast for 12 hours. Finally the yacht docked in Southwold harbour where Balezentis, Urbanavicius and Gikiene were arrested.

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The court heard that Balezentis captained the yacht and was paid about £2,000 by the immigrant.

Meanwhile on Southwold harbour Linas Racuis, 18, was spotted speaking in a foreign language into a mobile phone.

When questioned he told police he and his father Tomas Racuis, 42, who was waiting in a nearby car were there because they hoped to charter a yacht.

He said the fact that they were Lithuanian was coincidental to the immigrants being found. However the court heard that Linus' girlfriend was among the illegal immigrants on the yacht.

All four men pleaded guilty to facilitating the entry of illegal immigrants. Urbanavicius was jailed for 29 months, Balezantis, 30 months and Linus and Tomas were each jailed for 10 months. Gikiene, a primary school teacher was sent to prison for 15 months in August.

Following the sentences the court recommended that the defendant be deported.