08 June 2017
Eight men have been charged in relation to an alleged people smuggling operation which brought Albanian migrants across the Channel in small boats.
Leonard Powell, George Powell, Alfie Powell, Wayne Bath, Alan Viles, Albert Letchford, Francis Wade and Sabah Dulaj, an Albanian national, all alleged members of a crime group were charged on 6, 7 and 8 June with conspiring to facilitate illegal migration.
The charges follow a National Crime Agency (NCA) investigation launched when an abandoned rigid hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) was discovered on a Dymchurch beach in May 2016. It contained life jackets and showed signs of recent use.
Eighteen days later another RHIB carrying 18 Albanian nationals was rescued from the channel in a multi-agency operation. It had broken down and was taking on water. The NCA utilised the support of the Home Office’s Immigration Enforcement in prosecuting the two British skippers, Mark Stribling and Robert Stilwell, who were arrested and later sentenced to more than 4 years’ imprisonment.
The eight charged by the NCA are alleged to have been connected to both incidents.
They are due to appear at Medway Magistrates Court on the 18th July 2017.
Brendan Foreman, the NCA's Regional Head of Investigations said:
“National Crime Agency officers have been running a complex investigation for more than a year targeting those alleged to be involved in smuggling migrants using small boats.
“The NCA and its partners in Border Force, Immigration Enforcement, Kent Police and the wider policing community work collaboratively to disrupt any activity that puts people's lives at risk and threatens the integrity of the UK’s Border.”