A north west London barber who offered lorry drivers thousands of pounds to illegally bring people into the UK from northern France and Belgium has been convicted of people smuggling.
An NCA investigation found that Gul Wali Jabarkhel, 33 and from Cricklewood, was using his barbershop in nearby Colindale as a front to commit organised immigration crime, and was attempting to recruit lorry drivers to bring migrants to the UK.
In September 2020 Jabarkhel – who claimed he had links with Albanian criminals abroad – offered a driver £2,500 for each person smuggled in from France or Belgium, with payment to be made on completion.
He was reluctant to smuggle more than five migrants at a time due to the risk of detection, but wanted to secure an on-going arrangement with the driver, who would make smuggling runs up to three times a month.
The first run was scheduled for 9 November 2020, which involved smuggling migrants from Belgium, but Jabarkhel abandoned it.
Instead, he and his co-conspirator in a future venture, Baz Mohammed Jabarkhil, 47, from Mill Hill, also in north west London, left the UK and flew to Kabul, Afghanistan.
While they were away the NCA worked to stop them returning, in an attempt to disrupt their criminal enterprise.
However, the pair made repeated attempts to re-enter the UK illegally using the lorry drivers they had tried to recruit. A plan was hatched for this in April 2021, which they were to pay £7,500 each for.
With them out of the country they turned to fellow crime group members Rehan Murudkar, 19, of Edgware and Mohammad Rafique, 28, to arrange a cash handover at the M1 London Gateway Services for their facilitation.
But the pair were unaware that they were being watched by the NCA, and shortly after the cash was paid to the lorry driver Murudkar and Rafique were arrested on suspicion of money laundering.
When interviewed, both men admitted travelling from the hair salon to the service station with the money but denied involvement in the people smuggling plot. They claimed they were unaware of what they were purchasing but had made the assumption they were paying for untaxed goods such as barbering equipment.
However, this was contradicted by evidence found on their phones showing repeated phone calls, audio and text message exchanges withJabarkhel and Jabarkhil.
This included a Google Maps link for the service station that Jabarkhil sent to both Murudkar and Rafique and messages from Murudkar to his partner saying he was dropping off £10,000 for Jabarkhel.
Shortly afterwards, Jabarkhel thought he had finally successfully smuggled himself back into the UK, but NCA officers arrested him at the barber shop on 8 July 2021.
Two months later Baz Mohammed Jabarkhil also entered the UK illegally via a small boat. He was detained by Border Force in Dover and arrested over people smuggling offences by the NCA.
All four men were convicted today (25 April) following a six week trial at Kingston Crown Court.
Baz Mohammad Jabarkhil pleaded guilty to illegally entering the UK in September 2021.
Gul Wali Jabarkhel pleaded guilty in an earlier hearing for his part in the conspiracy to smuggle Baz Mohammed Jabarkhil into the UK.
They will be sentenced on 1 June.
NCA Senior Investigating Officer Chris Hill said: “This gang were ruthless operators who regarded human beings as little more than goods to profit from.
“They attempted to orchestrate dangerous journeys across the Channel in the backs of lorries where the risk of injury, or worse, were extremely high.
“These convictions have smashed a hole through their criminal enterprise and are a strong reminder that tackling organised immigration crime is a priority for the NCA.
“Anyone else embroiled in this type of activity should stand up and take note. We will catch you and bring you before the courts.”
Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor Kate Anderson said: “Gul Wali Jabarkhel wanted to exploit others’ desire to enter the UK unlawfully, focusing on profit and showing no regard for potential risks to the migrants’ safety.
“He and a co-defendant then attempted to re-enter the UK in a lorry to avoid border detection. They conspired with two other defendants who handed over a significant sum of money as payment to the lorry drivers.
“The case presented to the court highlighted the defendants’ focus on transport, logistics and fee negotiations with the lorry drivers.
“These crimes are extremely serious and we will continue to work with our partners to ensure those responsible face justice.”