16 April 2018
Pictured: Yevhenii Vasylkov
Three Ukrainian nationals have been convicted of attempting to smuggle 19 migrants into the UK on a hired yacht, following a National Crime Agency investigation.
The trio were arrested after the boat 'Flamingo' arrived into Southwold harbour, Suffolk, on 15 October 2017, having sailed across the North Sea from the Netherlands.
Shortly after the boat landed officers from the NCA and the Border Force coastal patrol vessel ‘Alert’ moved in and Yevhenii Vasylkov, 30, and Yupi Karakin, 27, were arrested, alongside a number of migrants who were still on the vessel.
Ten migrants had already been transferred into two vehicles for onward transportation. Those vehicles were stopped by Suffolk Police officers as they drove towards Ipswich and drivers Yuril Dzhuraniuk, 26, Mykhailo Riok, 27, were arrested.
All 19 migrants were passed to Immigration Enforcement.
The four all initially denied facilitating illegal migration, but on day three of their trial at Blackfriars Crown Court Vasylkov changed his plea to guilty.
The trial continued, and on Monday 16 April Dzhuraniuk and Riok were found guilty. They will be sentenced on 10 May. Karakin was found not guilty, but as he entered the UK illegally he now faces being removed back to Ukraine.
NCA branch operations manager Tony Luhman said:
“This case demonstrates how criminal networks involved in organised immigration crime are prepared to risk the lives of the people they smuggle for the sake of profit.
“The vessel they travelled in from the Netherlands was not equipped to make such a journey, and had it run into trouble the consequences could have been fatal.
“But this crime group didn’t care about that, they just wanted to make money out of the desperation of others to reach the UK.
“There were clearly others involved in this and other similar smuggling attempts, in that respect our investigation continues.
“Working with law enforcement partners we are determined to protect the integrity of the UK’s border, targeting the illegal networks involved in organised immigration crime and disrupting their activity.”
Rod Lowson, from Border Force Maritime Command, said:
“Coastal patrol vessel ‘Alert’ and her crew played an important part in this operation, moving quickly alongside NCA officers to board the yacht 'Flamingo' and make arrests.
“This case demonstrates the valuable role of the coastal patrol vessels within Border Force’s maritime capacity. They are able to operate close to shore and compliment the offshore work of the longer range cutter fleet, intercepting those attempting illegal activity at the border.”
This investigation forms part of Project Invigor, the UK’s Organised Immigration Crime Taskforce that targets the criminal networks behind people smuggling. It is led by the NCA and includes partners such as Immigration Enforcement, Border Force and the Crown Prosecution Service, working in the UK and internationally.