People smuggler jailed after covering victims in bleach to avoid detection

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A people smuggler has been jailed for more than three years after dousing his human cargo in bleach in a bid to avoid detection. Costel Nicuta, 42, was arrested by Border Force officers at the Channel Tunnel entrance near Calais on February 27, after they found three Albanian men hidden in a tiny secret compartment in the roof of his trailer. The three men’s clothes were covered with bleach and Nicuta had the substance on his hoodie. There was also a strong smell of bleach in the trailer, which was found to be empty.

Officers took the three Albanian men to get medical treatment before handing them over to the French Police Aux Frontieres. The case was passed to Immigration Enforcement’s Criminal and Financial Investigation (CFI) team. Nicuta, of no fixed address, was later charged with assisting unlawful immigration into the UK and remanded in custody.

The Romanian national was sentenced to three years and four months in prison after a pre-trial hearing at Canterbury Crown Court, Kent, held via video link. Chris Philp, Minister for Immigration Compliance said: ‘We are working around the clock with law enforcement and international partners to make sure that people smugglers face the full force of the law. ‘This was a horrendous attempt to try and smuggle people into the UK illegally. ‘I hope Nicuta’s imprisonment sends a clear message – anyone who engages in this kind of criminality will be caught and brought before the courts.’