Fourth member of people smuggling group jailed for four and a half years

A fourth member of a people-smuggling group which brought migrants to the UK from France and Belgium has been jailed.

Jetmir Myrtaj, 35, was sentenced to four and a half years behind bars for his role in organising the “dangerous” trips across the English Channel, the National Crime Agency (NCA) said.

Myrtaj, of Kirby Road, Leicester, was jailed at Nottingham Crown Court on Tuesday after three co-defendants – fellow Albanians Banet Tershana and Klodian Shenaj, and British national Desmond Rice – were sentenced on Friday.

Speaking on Friday, NCA branch commander Derek Evans said: “Our investigators worked tirelessly to identify members of this people-smuggling network and take action before they could arrange any more dangerous crossings.

“Tershana was the organiser, financier and collected payment from migrants, Shenaj was the conduit between mainland Europe-based facilitators and the UK, and Myrtaj and Rice were integral to facilitating the crossings.

“Tackling organised immigration crime is a priority for the NCA, and we will continue to target people smugglers both in the UK and overseas.”

The NCA said that the smugglers were first spotted offloading migrants by a coastguard plane in Joss Bay, Kent, on October 8 2022, with the same location used for a second crossing on October 23.

Myrtaj had moored a rigid-hulled inflatable boat, named Orca, under a false name in Brightlingsea, Essex, and carried out repairs to make it seaworthy.

The group had also purchased a second boat which they stored at the same location, which when stopped by Belgian authorities was found to have only six inadequate lifejackets when 12 migrants, including children, were aboard.

Rice, Myrtaj, Shenaj and Tershana were then all arrested between October 2022 and March 2023.

Tershana, 52, of Harmsworth Crescent, Hove, East Sussex, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration on April 17, while Myrtaj pleaded guilty to assisting unlawful immigration to the UK on the first day of trial at Nottingham Crown Court on July 31.

Rice, 47, of Meadowcroft, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, and Shenaj, 49, of Broxtowe Street, Nottingham, pleaded guilty to the same charge the next day, with all four sentenced by Judge Stuart Rafferty KC.

A fifth man, Arsen Feci, 44, also of Broxtowe Street, Nottingham, was due to face trial with his co-defendants but did not appear, and is believed to have fled abroad.

Anyone with information as to his whereabouts is urged to contact the NCA.