Jailed traffickers allegedly earned more than £1m from migrant Channel crossings
At a court today, Monday, December 27, in the northern French port of Boulogne-sur-Mer, prosecutor Adeline Depardon jailed three men responsible for trafficking migrants across the English Channel. They are believed to have earned more than £1million between June 27 and August 9.
The trio are thought to have arranged in excess of 500 crossings for hundreds of illegal migrants during that time. Their trial came as the result of one of their boats sinking three weeks ago, off the Calais coast, with the loss of at least 27 lives.
Mohammad Fiate, aged 22, of Syrian origin, and Sharam Shorsh and Ali Haldin, his two associates, both Kurdish nationals, were all found guilty, with the prosecutor telling the people smugglers, “What stands out here is your disregard for other people’s lives, that human beings are a commodity”.
During the cross-examination by Depardon, Fiate constantly wiped away tears, claiming, “I did it to pay for my crossing. I am not a smuggler. I obey the traffickers because they frighten me”, to which the prosecutor responded, “At no moment did you think about the migrants who could have died at sea, only about yourself”.
For his six-week operation, Fiate – deemed the ringleader – received a four-year prison sentence. He had been described by a senior French official as portraying all the hallmarks of a person high up the scale of a trafficking network.
Shorsh was handed a two-year stretch, while Haldin will spend only twelve months behind bars. Prosecutors believe they got off very lightly, and had requested a minimum of seven years.
It was revealed during the trial that the operators charged the migrants between €2,000 (£1,700), and €3,000 (£2,500) each. This would have gained them more than £1million, but police investigators say the money has never been found, and believe it has already travelled up the chain of command.
After being stopped in a routine police block, the three men had been arrested in Calais, in the early hours of August 10. The Mail had access to a police report, and revealed that when officers searched their vehicle, 16 soaking wet inflatable buoys were found.
There was also a notebook containing hundreds of migrants’ names, with each one having a sum of money added next to them. According to the report, the most lucrative crossing was made on July 19 when they managed to cram 83 people onto one single dinghy.
Acting in Fiate’s defence, lawyer Kamel Abbas claimed his client had arrived in France in January 2021, after travelling through 12 countries whilst fleeing the fighting in Syria.
“I am a mechanic”, claimed Shorsh, as he sobbed in the dock, adding, “I only repaired three engines”. He pleaded innocence and ignorance of the events, as did the other two, all claiming to be employed by a mysterious kingpin character named Souca, who nobody knows the location of.
Confidential documents placed before the court have been seen by The Mail, and the contents reportedly throw a different light on their claims of being small-time crooks. Investigators had uncovered the men’s mobile phone records and movements, which showed them making several trips to the coast from Paris.
An iphone belonging to Fiate was allegedly full of images of passports details, prices paid, names, and photos, of all the migrants he had dealt with. Using data collected by UK Border Force, officials had managed to match 327 people. Another 200 were also suspected of having crossed.
In the police document, it relates to a video of Fitae that shows him at a table covered with luxury watches, and thumbing a pile of €200 notes, as reported by dailymail.co.uk.