A UK court jailed a French couple Friday for smuggling Vietnamese migrants including children into the country inside specially adapted sofas, the interior ministry said.
Hove Crown Court in southern England sentenced Junior Toussaint and Andrene Paul, both from near Paris, to four years and six months, and five years and five months respectively, the ministry said.
The pair, who had worked together as delivery drivers in France, pleaded guilty to assisting unlawful migration to the UK.
Travelling from Dieppe in northern France to Newhaven Port on the southern English coast in April earlier this year, they used furniture to hide a Vietnamese woman and three children in the back of a hire van.
Officers from the UK’s Border Force became suspicious when they searched the van and saw movement from inside the adapted sofas, which were buried underneath a mattress and other furniture.
Two migrants were hidden inside the sofa while others were hidden among other fixtures including a chest of drawers.
The defendants told officials they had no knowledge of the migrants’ presence in their van and had been driving it to help with furniture removal in London.
But fingerprint checks carried out by Border Force later proved Toussaint’s involvement in the smuggling attempt, according to the interior ministry.
Paul, who had also initially denied her involvement, was found to have made a series of suspicious visits to the UK earlier in the year, it added.
The ministry said she pleaded guilty when video evidence of her previous activity was shown in court.
“Criminals are going to increasingly extreme lengths to smuggle people across the UK border for profit due to our efforts to clamp down on them,” Chris Foster, of the ministry’s criminal and financial investigations section, said.
“This sentence today reflects the severity of their crimes,” he added in a statement.