Afghans screwed inside ‘barbaric’ charity shop wardrobes by UK smuggling gang

A gang used charity shop wardrobes to smuggle Afghan refugees "like cattle" in a "barbaric" operation, a court has heard.

Adrian Nica, one of the men involved in the Walsall gang, travelled to France with a van filled up on furniture purchased from a London-based British Heart Foundation.

He travelled back separately from the driver, who was arrested at Dover with seven illegal immigrants packed in wardrobes with crudely made false panels, Birmingham Live reported.

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One of the individuals smuggled over was disabled and in need of a wheelchair, while Nica, otherwise known as Adrian Constantin, fled to his homeland of Romania.

The 36-year-old eventually returned to the UK voluntarily to face the courts, where he was found guilty of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and failing to surrender to court.

He was sentenced to three years and two months for his crimes after hiding out in his Romanian hometown for two years.

The gang had operated between August and October 2019, with Nica involved for two weeks during this period, travelling back and forth between the UK and France on August 25 and September 5.

He travelled also on September 8, with prosecutors believing this trip was to show a new driver the route for smuggling, or to distract border officials.

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Prosecutor Craig Evans said there were "false panels screwed into the wardrobes and people were hidden in the gaps".

Judge Sarah Buckingham said: "Human beings literally fixed or screwed inside the furniture which was then packed inside the vans. The spaces were confined, hot and enclosed with little air."

The judge further ruled Nica's eyes were "open" to the "exploitation of vulnerable people desperate to escape life-threatening circumstances".

A number of other men have also been sentenced for their parts in the trafficking ring which caused a "real risk" to the "lives and wellbeing" of those the gang smuggled.

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