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Driver who smuggled children bolted inside hidden van hatch jailed

A man who smuggled 4 Vietnamese migrants in a single ‘coffin-like’ hide inside the roof of a van has been sentenced today (11 May) to 3 years in prison.

Nicolai Bogdan Lungan, a 32-year-old Romanian, was sentenced at Canterbury Crown Court for assisting unlawful immigration into the UK.

This follows a swift investigation by the Home Office’s Criminal and Financial Investigations (CFI) unit.

Investigators found that Lungan accepted an offer of earning €6,000 in February this year, to drive a Romanian registered van containing hidden migrants – who were unable to escape without assistance – from Brussels into the UK.

Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick, said:

These criminal and life threatening attempts to smuggle people, including children, into the UK in these incredibly tight, coffin-like spaces are utterly abhorrent and we will not stand for it.

I would like to praise our Immigration Enforcement officers who are working around the clock to prevent this activity and to bring the perpetrators to justice.


No-one should be risking their lives to come to the UK illegally, and today’s case sends a clear message to the smuggling gangs that they will feel the full weight of the law.

The Renault Master van driven by the defendant travelled by ferry from Dunkirk to Dover.

He was stopped by Border Force officers at Dover who noticed that the roof above the driver was covered with padded material and was unusually hot.

When this material was removed, officers found a hatch in the van roof which led to a hide in which they found four 17-year-old children. The migrants were found lying on bare metal in the cramped and insufficiently ventilated roof hatch, which had been bolted shut using power tools.

The migrants inside the hatch had no way of escaping from the hide without assistance. When questioned by officers, Lungan claimed he was travelling to Glasgow to collect furniture which he intended to take back to Romania to open a barber shop.

The defendant was subsequently charged with assisting unlawful immigration and pleaded guilty to that offence at an earlier court hearing.


Chris Foster, Deputy Director for Immigration Enforcement’s Criminal and Financial Investigations, said:

Criminals should be in no doubt of our determination to investigate and bring to justice anyone attempting to smuggle people into the UK and in atrocious conditions such as this.

I hope this sentencing sends a powerful message that breaking the law and putting individuals’ lives at risk will not go unpunished. My team work tirelessly to disrupt this type of illegal activity and we will continue to take action against those who put people’s lives in danger for the sake of making money.

Link:, dated May 11, 2023 3:48 pm

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