Eight years for Albanian people smuggler

An Albanian man has been jailed for eight years by a Belgian court today for smuggling up to 12,000 people into the UK.

Mhill Sokoli headed a lucrative 24-strong gang, who smuggled illegal immigrants to Britain via the Belgian port of Zebrugge.

Up to 20 Albanians a day were smuggled by the gang, many in the back of lorries, and Sokoli was earning several thousands euros each night he worked for two years.

The immigrants are believed to have travelled to Italy from Albania via boat.

Sokoli concealed his wealth by living in a small flat when in Brussels, but he owned considerable property and businesses in Albania.

The defence argued that Sokoli was more of a businessman than a criminal and claimed that he did not exploit his customers.

He reportedly earned more than £12 million for smuggling thousands of Albanians into the UK in containers.

However, the court found him guilty and the judge fined him 125,000 euros (£90,000), as well as handing him a jail sentence.

In June, a Dutch court sentenced seven members of a Chinese criminal gang to up to six years in jail for smuggling illegal immigrants into the UK from China.

Four of the seven were charged in connection with the deaths of 58 Chinese migrants who were found dead in lorry in Dover in 2000.