People smuggling defendants deny knowledge of plot

The Northern Echo: £200 TRIP: From left, Mohammad Yaghoobi, Aref Yaghobi and Akbar Rahmani £200 TRIP: From left, Mohammad Yaghoobi, Aref Yaghobi and Akbar Rahmani

TWO men accused of travelling to the region to collect a group of illegal immigrants today (Thursday) claimed they knew nothing about a people smuggling plot.

Mohammad Yaghoobi and his friend Aref Yaghobi (CORRECT) said they were just innocent taxi drivers.

The pair, both from Liverpool, were arrested at Dalton Park Shopping Centre, near Seaham, County Durham, along with two other men.

Mr Yaghoobi told Teesside Crown Court he had been asked by a friend, Akbar Rehami, to collect four people described by Mr Rehami as "friends" from Seaham.

Mr Yaghoobi said he asked Mr Yaghobi to help because they would not all fit in one car.

The pair said Mr Rehami, also from Liverpool, had promised them £200 each for the trip.

Mr Yaghoobi told the court: "If I did know that (I was collecting illegal immigrants) I wouldn't have gone for £200 - if it had been £20,000 I wouldn't have gone."

Mr Yaghobi said he had finished working at about midnight and had just bought a takeaway when his friend called asking if he would make the trip to Seaham.

He said: "This is a job I'm doing. I'm not doing anything wrong."

Police detained five illegal immigrants and arrested four alleged traffickers after the immigrants were spotted stealing apples by a man going home from the pub.

Prosecutors claim the young men – five Afghans and an Iranian – had been smuggled into the UK in a truck.

Mr Yaghoobi, 23, Mr Rehmani, 22, and Mr Yaghobi, 21, deny conspiracy to assist illegal immigration.

The trial continues.

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