Athlone resident to avoid jail for role in human trafficking scheme

A judge has said that a Pakistani man who involved himself in a human trafficking operation here will get a suspended prison sentence.

Adil Muhammad (32) of Ankers Court, The Bower, Athlone, Westmeath said he did not receive any payment for his role in providing passports for six Afghani Sikhs who entered the State with fraudulent Indian passports.

Detective Garda Anthony Collins told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that the six individuals were all from one family and had contacted a criminal group in order to traffick them from Afghanistan to Europe.

He said they would have paid individuals in this group to provide them with travel documents and move them across into Europe. This movement would coalesce in Spain with the transport to Ireland being the last leg of the journey.

Gardaí investigating the suspicious movement of individuals from India began to monitor certain flights coming in from Spain. The flights normally came into Dublin Airport in the afternoon and the individuals would have an onward flight booked.

In this case six individuals came in on a flight from Malaga on two separate days. On each day the individuals had onwards flights booked for Abu Dhabi but once they passed immigration control they left the airport and took a taxi into town where they checked into a hotel for a number of days.

The court heard that the defendant met with them and they subsequently returned to Dublin airport and attempted to board flights to the UK. Gardai approached them and, on inspection, found the passports in their possession were false.

A follow up search of the defendants’ home in Athlone found six Indian passports. These were genuinely issued passports which had been obtained using false documentation, the detective said.

Muhammed pleaded guilty to two counts of possession of false passports of January 15, 2018.

Judge Martin Nolan said that the case troubled him and said the accused had involved himself in a human trafficking scheme.

“People should not be profiting from human misery and distress,” he said. But he said there was no evidence that Muhammad had profited, rather he had become involved after a family friend contacted him and asked him to do so.

“His motivation was some misplaced loyalty. That explanation has been offered and not contradicted,” he said.

Judge Nolan noted that references handed into the court demonstrated a generous man with his financial resources and his time.

“He is a valuable member of his family and people rely on him to some degree,” he said.

He said he intended to suspend a four year custodial sentence and to impose a community service order. He adjourned the case to February 10 next year in order for the Probation Service to assess Muhammad’s suitability for community service.