Albanian citizen convicted of role in people smuggling scheme after migrants nearly drowned
Albanian faces jail for role in people smuggling scheme after eight illegal immigrants nearly drowned when yacht they were on sunk off Devon coast
- Indrit Barhani acted as an intermediary and fixer for a Belgian organized crime gang
- Barhani organized repairs to be done on the boat before the operation
- Boat carried migrants from France across the Channel before it sank in bad weather
- Albanian Barhani was sentenced to four years and two months in Exeter Crown Court
Albanian national has been sentenced to prison for his role in a people-smuggling operation that nearly drowned migrants off the coast of Devon
An Albanian national has been jailed for his role in a people smuggling operation after eight migrants nearly drowned when the boat sank off the coast of Devon.
Illegal immigrant and smuggler Indrit Barhani acted as an intermediary and fixer between an organized crime ring in Belgium and yacht skipper James Wisbey who crammed the Albanians onto his 27-foot sloop Sea Crystal.
Barhani arranged payment for repairs to the yacht’s engine before the trip took place on December 14, 2020.
The migrants were picked up from the French coast and taken across the Channel in Wisbey’s yacht.
But the group nearly drowned when the overloaded and underpowered yacht was caught in a storm off the coast of Devon.
Authorities, who had monitored the voyage after becoming suspicious, watched as the ill-equipped boat nearly wrecked in mountainous seas before Wisbey grounded it at Horse Cove, Teignmouth, Devon, a court heard.
The terrified passengers clambered ashore and crossed the main line Paddington to Plymouth before climbing a cliff, where they were arrested by Border Force officers and police.
The final stages of the doomed journey were monitored by police and coast guards, who filmed the yacht from a helicopter as it was driven ashore by gale-force winds.
The migrants, who had all paid 20,000 euros for the trip, were squeezed into a tiny hut and had almost nothing to eat or drink during their journey.
In an earlier hearing, the court heard Wisbey stopping a migrant from calling 999 and asking for help as the Sea Crystal struggled to get to shore.
Captured on camera: Police, who had been monitoring the trip after becoming suspicious, watched the ill-equipped boat nearly sink into mountainous seas before Wisbey grounded it
James Wisbey, 56, (left) and accomplice Faye Miles, 39, (right), both from Plymouth, were sentenced to five years, four months and two years respectively in a previous hearing.
There were no life jackets and minimal safety equipment on board the boat, which had only one double berth, a small saloon and a single marine toilet.
Barhani, who was smuggled into the UK in a lorry in 2014, was traced through his phone contacts with Wisbey, who received £20,000, and police subsequently found other messages trying to get the migrants to the boat.
Barhani, 33, of London, confessed to conspiracy to violate immigration rules and was sentenced to four years and two months in prison by Judge Timothy Rose at Exeter Crown Court.
He will be evicted when his sentence comes to an end.
Wisbey, 56, and accomplice Faye Miles, 39, both from Plymouth, were sentenced to five years, four months and two years respectively in a previous hearing.
The judge told Barhani: “Everyone knows that this is indeed a very dangerous undertaking. Whatever boats or vessels are used, people’s lives are at stake.’