A British court jailed a French couple on Friday for smuggling Vietnamese migrants and children into the country on specially adapted sofas, the Home Office 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 worked together as delivery drivers in France, pleaded guilty to aiding illegal immigration to the UK.
As they traveled from Dieppe in northern France to Newhaven Port on the southern English coast in April this year, they hid a Vietnamese woman and three children in the back of a rental van full of furniture.
British Border Police officers became suspicious when they searched the van and saw movement inside the converted sofas, which were buried under a mattress and other furniture.
Two migrants were hidden in the sofa, while others were hidden among other furnishings, including a dresser.
The defendants told officers they had no knowledge of the migrants’ presence in their van and had driven it to help transport furniture in London.
However, according to the Interior Ministry, fingerprint checks later carried out by the border police proved that Toussaint was involved in the smuggling attempt.
It was discovered that Paul, who also initially denied her involvement, had made a series of suspicious visits to the UK earlier this year, it said.
The ministry said she pleaded guilty when video evidence of her previous activities was shown in court.
“As a result of our efforts to crack down on them, criminals are going to increasingly extreme lengths to smuggle people across the UK border for profit,” said Chris Foster, from the department’s Criminal and Financial Investigations Unit.
“This sentence today reflects the seriousness of their crimes,” he added in a statement.
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