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Member of people trafficking gang jailed for two years
A TAKE-AWAY worker involved in a people-trafficking gang was jailed for two years after being told by a judge: "This undermines the security of our country."
Akbar Rehmani arranged for two taxis to travel from Merseyside to the North-East when plans to smuggle the Afghans into the UK went wrong, Teesside Crown Court heard.
The six illegal immigrants ended up cold and hungry in Seaham, County Durham, after they escaped from the back of a lorry - when they should have been in Liverpool.
They were spotted stealing apples from trees by a man walking home from a night out in November 2011, prosecutor Michael Graham told Judge Simon Bourne-Arton, QC.
Police were tipped off by the passer-by and lay in wait for the re-arranged collection at the nearby Dalton Park shopping complex in the early hours of the morning.
Rehmani, 22, was arrested along with Walliallam Zaheer and drivers Mohammad Yaghoobi, 23, and Aref Yaghobi, 21, while the six immigrants were also detained.
Zaheer was deported months later, but the other three men faced a trial in November accused of assisting the illegal entry of non-EU residents into the country.
The drivers were acquitted after the jury accepted they were "unwitting stooges" doing a favour for friends, but Rehmani, of Galloway Street, Liverpool, was convicted.
His barrister, Rebecca Smith, told the court said he sought asylum in the UK and later applied to become a special constable because he wanted to join the police.
"He now knows the aim is not a realistic one because of his conviction," said Miss Smith. "He knows he will not be able to make a further application.
"He was recruited into this, and the recruitment came to him. He accepted it as a result of misplaced loyalty. He will take whatever punishment the court deems appropriate."
Judge Bourne-Arton accepted that Zaheer involved Rehmani in the plot, and his friend - and others - were probably higher up the chain of the trafficking gang.
But he told the defendant he was satisfied he would have received at least £200 - the fee paid to the two drivers he urgently recruited when the plan faltered.
"Courts take this offence seriously, and they do so for this reason: Any country and every country has to have the security of their borders," the judge said.
"There has to be control as to who enters this country to ensure that only those who are entitled to come here do, and only those entitled to work here do.
"It may well be that those who come illegally are coming from countries of different political persuasion where the extent of liberty is restricted and work is hard to come by.
"The court is aware that those involved in this sort of conspiracy are carrying out a trade which is well-paid and there is a great deal of money to be made."