Human trafficker jailed after using Hemel to smuggle 20 illegal immigrants into the UK

Agim Kolaj was jailed for 27 months for his part in smuggling 20 Albanians into the UK, via Hemel
Agim Kolaj was jailed for 27 months for his part in smuggling 20 Albanians into the UK, via Hemel

Hemel Hempstead was the location used to smuggle 20 illegal immigrants into the UK by a human trafficker who was jailed for 27 months.

Albanian Agim Kolaj had been expecting just to collect just his brother from the back of a lorry in Hogg End Lane, below a motorway bridge.

But at the last minute he received a call from the Mr Big behind the human trafficking operation who said he had to provide transport for another 19 Albanians who were also in the rear of the lorry.

St Albans crown court was told Kolaj, a 29 year old married father from Bedford, arranged for his friend to take a VW van to the Hemel rendezvous with the lorry which had collected the illegal immigrants in Belgium in December.

Judge Steven Gullick was told Kolaj was there with his 4x4 vehicle and was joined by his friend with his van.

On board the lorry was Kolaj’s brother along with the other Albanians.

But also present and nearby were a group of plain clothed police officers in an unmarked car who were undergoing a driving course.

Prosecutor Jeremy Barton said the officers could see the rear doors of the lorry were open and two male figures clambering the cargo to get inside the van.

Inside the lorry more men could be seen and Mr Barton said: “They were all Albanian nationals with no right of entry or residence in the UK.”

Police arrested Kolaj, who has lived in the UK for 14 years, at the scene but the friend he had recruited was not detained.

Officers believed his story that he had no idea what was going on and he understood the job involved just picking up goods.

The lorry’s Czekoslovakian driver, 51 year old Petr Trapla – a married father of three – was also arrested and jailed for three years.

He had been recruited by the people smugglers to take the illegal immigrants across the Channel aboard a ferry having collected them in Belgium.

The court was told the haulage company he worked for confirmed he had a legitimate consignment of sweets on board his lorry, but had no idea of his secret sideline for which he was being paid.

Matthew Kirk, defending, said Kolaj had been expecting to collect just his brother.

Mr Kirk said: “If he didn’t assist with providing a van, then his brother would remain on the lorry.”

The court heard Kolaj was concerned because he knew it was a refrigerated lorry and so organised the transport.

Kolaj and Trapl pleaded guilty to a charge of assisting unlawful immigration to a member state.