Nicolae Chirvas and the woman he tried to smuggle into Britain
Border Force officers were astonished when they lifted the bonnet to find a woman huddled among the engine components.
They said it was amazing the woman had not been killed or seriously injured after being stuffed into a tiny area where excessive heat is generated and several dangerous moving parts are contained.
Canterbury Crown Court heard how trafficker Nicolae Chirvas was stopped by officers at a Channel Tunnel checkpoint at Coquelles near Calais in northern France.
People smuggler Nicolae Chirvas has been jailed for three years
The court heard how officers questioned Chirvas, who initially told them he had been to Romania to visit his sister before changing his story and saying he had been to Germany.
Officers found the woman crouched under the bonnet when they began to inspect the vehicle.
She was handed over to French border police at Coquelles after immigration checks showed she was an Albanian national.
Chirvas, 31, of Enfield, north London, was arrested at the scene and the case was passed to Immigration Enforcement Criminal and Financial Investigation officers.
He was jailed for three years after admitting trying to smuggle the woman into the UK using his Nissan van on 1 February this year.
Border Force officers were astonished to find a woman crouched under the bonnet
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Chirvas gave no thought to the safety of the woman he was attempting to smuggle into the UK
Speaking after the court hearing, Paul Morgan, Director for Border Force South East and Europe, said: “When officers flipped the hood of the van to examine the engine they found it had been specially adapted.
“The whole engine had been lowered and in the void where you would normally expect to find a spare wheel, officers instead found a woman.
“This was a particularly elaborate concealment and it is a demonstration of the desperate lengths that individuals – and people smugglers – are prepared to go to in their attempts to breach the UK’s border controls.
“It is Border Force’s job to stay one step ahead and secure the border, which is exactly what has happened in this case.”
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Immigration Enforcement Criminal and Financial Investigation team spokesman David Fairclough said: “It is impossible to tell exactly how long the woman had been hidden inside the cramped one metre by 75cm space, but needless to say, smuggling a person in such circumstances is extremely dangerous.
“The only thing preventing the woman from falling on to the road was a metal plate welded to the bottom of the vehicle.
“Had the car been involved in any kind of collision the end result does not bear thinking about.
“Chirvas gave no thought to the safety of the woman he was attempting to smuggle into the UK. His disregard for another human being is quite breathtaking.”