Smugglers caught hiding family of five in back of van at Essex port jailed for 30 months each

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Three smugglers caught hiding a family of five in the back of a van were jailed for 30 months each.

Leontin Padure, 37, Maria-Mirabela Bulumez, 22, and Marcel-Ionut Frant, 27, were all arrested after being arrested at Harwich International Port, Essex.

Border forces officers searched a red Mercedes Sprinter van driven by Padure as it arrived on a ferry from the Netherlands.

Leontin Padure, 37 (pictured), was driving the red Mercedes Sprinter van which was searched by border force officers at Harwich International Port in Essex

Maria-Mirabela Bulumez, 22 (pictured), was one of three people arrested. They were each sentenced to 30 months in prison at Chelmsford Crown Court, the Home Office said.

Maria-Mirabela Bulumez, 22 (pictured), was one of three people arrested. They were each sentenced to 30 months in prison at Chelmsford Crown Court, the Home Office said.

Marcel-Ionut Frant, 27 (pictured), was one of three smugglers, from Romania with no fixed address in the UK, who admitted charges of assisting illegal immigration.

Marcel-Ionut Frant, 27 (pictured), was one of three smugglers, from Romania with no fixed address in the UK, who admitted charges of assisting illegal immigration.

Officers found four people hidden in a false partition in the back of the van (pictured) and air holes had been drilled in the hiding place

Officers found four people hidden in a false partition in the back of the van (pictured) and air holes had been drilled in the hiding place

Officers found four people hidden in a false bulkhead in the back of the van, with a fifth person hidden behind the row of seats.

Ventilation holes had been drilled in the hiding place where the family of three men and two women from Afghanistan were found.

Officers also found tools used to seal the false bulkhead between the driver’s cabin and the back of the van that was arrested on February 16.

The three smugglers, all from Romania and with no fixed address in the UK, have admitted charges of assisting illegal immigration.

They were each sentenced to 30 months in prison on August 24 at Chelmsford Crown Court, the Home Office said.

Frant was also sentenced to a concurrent nine-month sentence for possession of a false driver’s license.

A fifth person was found hidden behind the row of seats. Family, originally from Afghanistan, treated according to immigration rules, interior ministry said

A fifth person was found hidden behind the row of seats. The family, from Afghanistan, are treated under immigration rules, interior ministry says

Officers also found tools used to seal the false bulkhead (pictured) between the driver's cabin and the back of the van which was pulled over on February 16.

Officers also found tools used to seal the false bulkhead (pictured) between the driver’s cabin and the back of the van which was pulled over on February 16.

A fifth person was found hidden behind the seats of the van (pictured) that arrived on a ferry from the Netherlands

A fifth person was found hidden behind the seats of the van (pictured) that arrived on a ferry from the Netherlands

Interior Minister Priti Patel said: “We will not tolerate any human trafficking in any form and we are doing all we can to fight those responsible for this appalling trade.

“This was a reckless attempt to bypass our border controls and anyone who has doubts about the consequences of such actions should take note – you will be caught and put behind bars. “

The Home Office said the family’s cases were being handled according to immigration rules.

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