A key figure in a major people smuggling network bringing Vietnamese migrants to the UK in the backs of lorries has been jailed, following a National Crime Agency investigation.
Hai Xuan Le, 33, himself a Vietnamese national, orchestrated a series of crossings in August and September 2020 from his flat in Handsworth, Birmingham.
Phone evidence produced by the NCA showed that Le was the UK lynchpin of a wider global network of people smugglers, transporting people illegally from Vietnam to the UK. In messages recovered by the NCA, members of the network referred to migrants as “pork” and “chickens.”
Using a range of different phone numbers, social media accounts and pseudonyms, Le would arrange for people to be transported to pre-arranged pick up points in Europe and loaded onto HGVs in France, Belgium or the Netherlands, using a complicit transport network.
Once they’d arrived in the UK, taxi driver Habib Behsodi, aged 42 and from Chatham in Kent, worked with Le to pick up migrants and drive them to the West Midlands, as well as collecting cash payments.
NCA investigators were able to prove that Le was involved in at least seven separate attempts to move migrants to the UK in a period of just over two weeks between 19 August and 4 September 2020.
Le was arrested at his home address by the NCA in September 2021, having tried to flee the property when he saw officers arrive. Initially he gave the name of Ho Sy Quoc, but through working with the authorities in Vietnam the NCA were able to establish his true identity. Behsodi was arrested around the same time.
Following a six week trial at Birmingham Crown Court both men were found guilty of conspiring to facilitate illegal immigration in December 2022.
Yesterday (22 February) at the same court Le was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison. Behsodi was given a two-year jail sentence suspended for two years at a hearing on 21 February.
NCA Branch Commander Mick Pope said: “Hai Xuan Le showed complete disregard for those he was involved in moving across the Channel. He treated them as nothing more than a commodity and was happy to risk their lives in return for his own financial benefit.
“Le was the lynchpin of a wider global criminal network, acting as a fixer to get migrants onto lorries and into the UK. Habib Behsodi worked with him to facilitate this criminal activity and bring newly-arrived migrants to the West Midlands.
“Stopping people smugglers is a priority for the NCA and we are determined to do all we can to disrupt and dismantle the criminal networks involved, wherever they operate.”