Four men have been found guilty of conspiring to smuggle 69 Albanian migrants into the UK on a dilapidated fishing boat.

The nearly 60-year-old trawler, called the Svanic, was intercepted by UK Border Force vessels in the North Sea on 17 November last year and was escorted into Harwich in Essex.

It was found to have had a lifeboat for just 20 people and there were only 20 lifejackets for the 72 people on board.

Image: The boat was dilapidated and had the lifesaving capacity for 20 people Latvian national Aleksandrs Gulpe, 44, and Ukrainian national Igor Kosyi, 56, were both found guilty at Chelmsford Crown Court of conspiring to assist unlawful immigration, a court official said.

Both men were described by prosecutors as crew members and were arrested when the boat reached land in the early hours of 18 November.

Kfir Ivgi, 39, of Corrigan Close, Finchley, and Sergejs Kuliss, 32, of Albert Basin Way, Newham, London were also found guilty, a court official said.

Prosecutors described them as “UK-based organisers”.

Arturas Jusas, 35, of Wandsworth Road, Lambeth, also described as a “UK-based organiser”, admitted conspiring to assist unlawful immigration at an earlier hearing.

A sixth man, Ukrainian national Volodymyr Mykhailov, 49, who the court heard was arrested when the boat reached land, was cleared.

All six defendants had been charged with conspiring to assist unlawful immigration between 1 September 2020 and 30 November 2020.

Image: The nearly 60-year-old trawler called the Svanic, The National Crime Agency’s director of investigations, Nikki Holland said, afterwards: “There is no stronger example of how organised criminals are prepared to risk the lives of the people they smuggle for profit.

“The Svanic was in an appalling condition, and in no fit state to make the perilous journey from Belgium to the UK.

“Had it got into trouble, the consequences could have been fatal as there was only one lifeboat and 20 lifejackets.”

“The dangers wouldn’t have crossed the minds of these men, whose sole motive was to line their pockets. They were planning to use this deathtrap over and over again.”

David Fairclough, deputy director, Immigration Enforcement Criminal Investigation, said: “It is sickening that criminal gangs like this have no regard for the value of human life only seeing them as a way to make money.

“As recent tragic events show these journeys are unnecessary, perilous, and sadly sometimes fatal.”