Albanian national jailed for his role in people smuggling plot after migrants almost drowned


Albanian national is jailed for his role in people smuggling plot after eight illegal immigrants almost drowned when yacht they were on sunk off Devon coast

  • Indrit Barhani acted as a middleman and fixer for a Belgian organised crime gang
  • Barhani organised for repairs to be carried out on the boat before the operation
  • Boat carried migrants from France across Channel before it sank in bad weather
  • Albanian Barhani was jailed for four years and two months at Exeter Crown Court

Albanian national has been jailed for his role in a people smuggling operation which saw migrants almost drown off the Devon coast

Albanian national has been jailed for his role in a people smuggling operation which saw migrants almost drown off the Devon coast

An Albanian national has been jailed for his role in a people smuggling operation after eight migrants almost drowned when the boat sunk off the Devon coast.

Illegal immigrant and smuggler Indrit Barhani acted as middleman and fixer between an organised crime gang 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 almost drowned when the overloaded and under-powered yacht was caught in a storm off the Devon coast.

Authorities, who had monitored the journey after becoming suspicious, watched as the ill-equipped boat almost founder in mountainous seas before Wisbey ran it aground at Horse Cove, Teignmouth, Devon, a court heard. 

The terrified passengers scrambled ashore and crossed the main Paddington to Plymouth railway line before climbing a cliff, where they were arrested by Border Force agents and police.

The final stages of the doomed trip were monitored by police and coastguards, 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 cabin and had almost nothing to eat or drink during their journey.

At an earlier hearing, the court heard Wisbey stopped one migrant from calling 999 and asking for help as the Sea Crystal struggled to head for the shore.

Caught on camera: Police, who had monitored the trip after becoming suspicious, watched as the ill-equipped boat almost founder in mountainous seas before Wisbey ran it aground

Caught on camera: Police, who had monitored the trip after becoming suspicious, watched as the ill-equipped boat almost founder in mountainous seas before Wisbey ran it aground

James Wisbey

Faye Miles

James Wisbey, aged 56, (left) and accomplice Faye Miles, aged 39, (right) both from Plymouth, were jailed for five years, four months, and two years respectively at an earlier hearing

There were no life jackets and minimal safety equipment onboard the boat which had just one double sleeping berth, a small saloon and a single marine toilet. 

Barhani, who was smuggled into the UK on a lorry in 2014, was traced through his phone contacts with Wisbey, who was paid £20,000, and police then found other messages arranging to get the migrants to the boat.

Barhani, 33, of London, admitted conspiracy to break immigration rules and  was jailed for four years and two months by Judge Timothy Rose at Exeter Crown Court.

He will face deportation when his sentence comes to an end.

Wisbey, aged 56, and accomplice Faye Miles, aged 39, both from Plymouth, were jailed for five years, four months, and two years respectively at an earlier hearing.

The Judge told Barhani: ‘Everyone knows that this is a very dangerous enterprise indeed. No matter what boats or craft are being used, peoples’ lives are put at risk.’

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