Photo: Josh Van Praagh / Facebook

EXCLUSIVE: BEMBRIDGE MAN JAILED FOR ROLE IN MIGRANT SMUGGLING OPERATION

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25-year-old Josh Van Praagh from the Isle of Wight has been sentenced to 3 years in prison in France for his part in a migrant smuggling operation.

As first reported by Island Echo on Monday, the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit (SEROCU) and the National Crime Agency last week foiled a plan to smuggle 5 Albanian migrants into the UK.

The operation involved a boat which travelled from the Isle of Wight to Cherbourg, France during the early hours of Friday morning (26th June).

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It was during the early hours of Saturday morning that the 32ft boat attempted to leave port in France. However, unbeknown to those on board, the vessel was being watched by the Maritime Gendarmerie who intercepted the boat. The authorities, who were acting on a tip-off from the British, were forced to draw their weapons.

The 2 Brits and 6 Albanians on board denied trying to cross the channel to England and said they were fishing. The Criminal Court of Cherbourg rubbished that claim on Thursday though as the group had been under surveillance. The court heard how the accused were part of a network of organised criminals involved in human trafficking.

Border Force were involved in the operation alongside NCA, SEROCU and Hampshire Constabulary, as well as French counterparts

Van Praagh, a mechanic who previously run his own garage on Embankment Road in Bembridge, and his accomplice, 54-year-old W M, from London, were photographed boarding the boat ‘Freedom’ on the Isle of Wight and were tailed on their passage to France.

Van Praagh told the French court earlier today that he was forced to carry out the journey by another, unnamed individual and that he feared for his life. This account was supported by Mills. It’s said that Josh received in the region of £250,000 for carrying out the operation which originally was to involve up to 16 migrants, as well as drugs.

W M received 4 years in prison for facilitating with the entry, movement or illegal stay of a foreigner in the territory of a State party to the protocol against the smuggling of migrants in an organized gang. Joshua Van Praagh received a 3-year sentence for the same offence. A third defendant, Armando Hodo from Ersekë in Albania, also received 3 years behind bars.

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The trio have been banned from entering France for 10 years and £9,000 in cash has been seized from the boat, alongside mobile phones. The boat itself has also been seized.

Did the boat leave Bembridge Harbour? Authorities have not confirmed where the boat departed from

A 43-year-old man from the Isle of Wight was also arrested in the UK as part of the investigation, but released pending further enquiries. It has been confirmed to Island Echo by SEROCU that the arrest took place in Ryde on Saturday 27th June.

The migrants caught on the boat by the authorities included 4 men and a pregnant woman. It is unclear if they were to be brought to the Isle of Wight or another UK destination.

Van Praagh’s family had raised concerns about his whereabouts earlier this week. He was last heard from on Thursday when he said he was going fishing. He never returned.

NCA deputy director Matthew Long said:

“These convictions and jail sentences are testament to the close partnerships we have with our law enforcement colleagues in France.

“We recognise the threat posed by criminal networks involved in immigration crime, and we are determined to do all we can to disrupt and dismantle them.

“People smugglers treat migrants as a commodity to be profited from, and are content to put them in situations of extreme danger. That is why this type of crime is a priority for us.”

Detective Inspector Clair Trueman, from SEROCU, said:

“We have worked closely with our counterparts in France and wider UK law enforcement partners in order to stop those who attempt to facilitate illegal immigration.

“These are serious crimes, where vulnerable people have their lives put at unnecessary risk in order to make money without any considerations for their welfare.

“SEROCU will continue to work jointly with the NCA, Border Force and authorities abroad to catch these organised crime groups and protect those at risk from them.”

UPDATE – The 54-year-old from London has appealed his conviction.

The views/opinions expressed in these comments are solely those of the author and do not represent those of Island Echo. House rules on commenting must be followed at all times.
23 Comments
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Old bean

Bembridge say no more worse part of island

Anoninfo

Lol

JudgeMental

”.. Owns his own garage on Embankment Road..” lol

Pipie

Given 3 years by France. Probably just get a slap on the wrist if he was sentenced over here

ashleigh

A vile little shrimp of a boy. Always assumed to be into various types of smuggling, and dealing. Lets hope he stays in France. Not welcome here, never fixed my air con and still charged me.

Gungadin

What do they say about a fool and his money . . .

Ally

You’ll probably find that British scum isn’t welcome in France either…

Marcus

Your point being?

Pepe

Is that why you don’t live in France then, Ally?

Caulkhead

Bye Bye Scum. Don’t drop the soap.

Ryde Reader

Blimey, they don’t hang about over there – offence committed 26th June and already banged up for 3 years! Nice one!!

Ventnor

That’s how it should be done

Nelson

Yes, RR, the useless British justice system still has a lot to learn about sentencing.

Abide the law

After the 4th day he will recognise the French for “bend over”

Anoninfo

Wasn’t bembridge he hasn’t been there in years

Iow

I would shut up if I was you good riddance to scum

Nicki

The island doesn’t need crap like him let’s hope he never returns to the island !!

Another one bites the dust

I must compliment the French Legal system
No hanging around over there
I assume that as he is involved in criminal activity that the Inland Revenue will need to look at his tax returns !
It’s reassuring to see that locally and nationally a lot of organised crime has been infiltrated by the NCA and police recently.
Keep reporting crime and keep the momentum going.

Rog

No clown prosecution service over there

Redken

Now there’s a intelligent looking individual……
Can’t for the life of me think how this criminal genius ever got caught…

Sharon

lol

Last edited 4 months ago by Sharon Cade
Opps

That look on his face. Well he better get soap on a rope.

Jeff

Looks a xhitweasel

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