Pilots jailed for involvement in Albanian people smuggling | UK News
A pilot who joked about being “usually arrested for drugs” has been jailed for his part in a plot to smuggle four Albanians from Belgium to the UK.
Richard Styles was arrested along with Silvano Turchet and Vijayakumar Sivakumar after the National Crime Agency foiled their plan in March 2022.
Styles, from St Albans in Hertfordshire, was arrested at Deenethorpe Airfield, near Corby, Northamptonshire.
The 53-year-old had just flown to the airport from Belgium in his twin-engine plane, transporting three men and a woman who were attempting to evade immigration controls.
When officers arrested him, he joked, “Usually I get arrested for drugs, so it’s a little weird.”
The NCA found he had worked with former pilot and colleague Silvano Turchet to hire the six-seat Piper Seneca for £1,500.
The 68-year-old had paid for the jet to be stored in a hangar ahead of the March 23 flight.
Investigators believe the men were in contact with an Albanian man named “Tim K” who arranged for the passengers to meet him in Belgium.
When the plane returned to the country the next day, the surveillance team was waiting.
Meanwhile, Sivakumar, previously convicted of attempting to smuggle someone into the UK in the boot of his car, was also arrested.
Telephone records showed that the 43-year-old had been in contact with Tim K. before the flight.
Sarah Jennings, CPS specialist, said all three defendants were involved in a planned and coordinated attempt to circumvent immigration controls.
“The CPS has worked extremely closely with investigators to build this case, including the National Crime Agency and international law enforcement in Belgium,” she added.
“The evidence we presented showed that the three men worked together leading up to the crime, including on the day they were arrested, unaware that the NCA was waiting when the plane landed.”
All three men were charged with abetting an immigration law violation, a charge Styles admitted at a hearing on Aug. 8, 2022.
Turchet pleaded guilty on the first day of his trial, while Sivakumar was found guilty by a jury in February 2023 after a five-day trial at Leicester Crown Court.
On April 28, a judge from the same court sentenced Styles to seven years in prison, Turchet to seven and a half years, and Sivakumar to four and a half years.
NCA Regional Investigative Director Jacque Beer described Styles as a “career criminal” who had previously used his piloting skills to transport shipments of drugs across Europe.
“On this occasion he offered a luxurious end-to-end service, taking people to the UK on a private plane,” he added.
“His comments to my officers show that he did not consider the arrest to be anything but an occupational hazard.
“Turchet used his aviation knowledge and criminal connections to organize the attempt.
“People smugglers are using a range of methods to try to break through UK border controls and we are determined to do whatever we can to stop them.
“Fighting organized immigration crime is a priority for the NCA.”
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