A British man who smuggled 4 Albanian migrants into the UK in his campervan has been jailed for 15 months after being foiled by a receipt from a Belgian casino.

Border Force found the men hidden in the showers and bunks of Oozy Hughes’ van when it was stopped at Harwich Port in March 2018.

Hughes, also known as Mark Newton, was arrested for facilitating illegal entry to the UK. When interviewed at Chelmsford Police Station, he claimed he had hired the van to drive to Spain and returned to the UK by ferry from Santander.

However, his lies began to unravel when officers discovered the receipt from a casino in northern Belgium in his van, showing he had been there earlier that day to participate in a ‘Fantastic Fridays’ competition to win a 100-gram gold bar.

A subsequent investigation uncovered further evidence against him. GPS data from the campervan, which had been hired 2 days earlier, proved it had travelled through Belgium to the Netherlands, not Spain as Hughes had claimed.

Home Office Criminal and Financial Investigation teams also obtained text messages and call records from his mobile phone.

One message, sent on the day of the smuggling attempt, read “Holland Casino”.

Several calls had been made on the same day, including 2 to numbers the Home Office had linked to a Belgian people smuggling ring.

Further evidence recovered from the campervan included a receipt for a fuel purchase in Belgium and a parking ticket from Rotterdam from the day of Hughes’ arrest.

Hughes, who made no mention of knowing anyone in Belgium or the Netherlands when interviewed, was subsequently charged with facilitating illegal entry to the UK.

He pleaded guilty and was sentenced at Chelmsford Crown Court today.

Chris Foster, Deputy Director of Criminal and Financial Investigations at the Home Office, said: 

Today’s sentencing follows a complex and long-running investigation by my officers who have worked hard to bring this investigation to a positive conclusion.

This criminal worked with organised gangs overseas in his attempt to exploit our border. I’m pleased to see that he has been brought to justice and grateful to my teams for their tireless work on this case.

Published 29 November 2023