herald

Friday 23 February 2018

Airport human trafficker spent proceeds on 'pints of Guinness'

Cham pleaded guilty to smuggling immigrants
Cham pleaded guilty to smuggling immigrants

An Aer Lingus ground handler who helped to smuggle illegal immigrants into the country in exchange for cash told gardai that he spent the money on "pints of Guinness".

Frederick Cham (63) pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to five charges of facilitating the entry into the State of a person who was an illegal immigrant or who was seeking asylum at Dublin Airport, on dates between December 13, 2016, and January 22, 2017.

Cham, of Railway Cottages, Hazelhatch, Celbridge, Co Kildare, also admitted two charges of handling money which he knew to be the proceeds of crime on dates in December 2016 and January 2017.

Originally from Hong Kong, Cham was arrested as part of an investigation by the Garda National Immigration Bureau after the trafficking scheme came to light.

Cham, along with another Aer Lingus employee, helped to bypass passport control in the immigration hall of Dublin Airport by using staff swipe cards.

He told gardai that he was getting "a little bit of fast cash to get by" and said it was a "Mickey Mouse operation".

Describing how the scheme worked, he said: "Tell a little rat there's a hole there, out you go, it's not a criminal enterprise".

Garda Inspector Michael Buckley told the court that gardai did not accept this.

Identified

Cham told gardai the operation was linked to a man in China.

He identified to investigators separate Western Union transfers of cash, totalling around €6,000, from China and said he and his co-accused got around €2,000-€3,000 for each smuggling operation.

He told gardai he spent the money on pints of Guinness.

Cham had no previous convictions and had worked at Dublin Airport since coming to Ireland 15 years ago.

Insp Buckley told the court that Cham or the other man, who is before the courts and cannot be identified, would get a text from someone in Madrid to indicate that somebody was coming into Dublin Airport.

Once the plane got to the air-bridge, the co-accused would meet the foreign national off the plane and escort him toward the immigration hall.

Before entering this hall, the co-accused would bring the foreign national into a nearby lift, where Cham was waiting.

The men would exit the lift at ground level wearing 'hi-vis' Aer Lingus vests and travel in a catering truck to a hangar. It was here, via a staff turnstile gate, that the foreign national would move from air-side to land-side and enter the State.

Judge Martin Nolan said he would think about Cham's sentence overnight.

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