herald

Thursday 18 October 2018

People smuggler who spent cash on 'pints of Guinness' gets 4 years

Frederick Cham
Frederick Cham

An Aer Lingus ground handler, who spent his illegal earnings on "pints of Guinness", has been jailed for four years for helping to smuggle people illegally into the country.

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.

The Hong Kong native, along with another Aer Lingus employee, helped foreign nationals to bypass passport control by using staff swipe cards to access an employee gate.

Judge Martin Nolan said it was a serious and devious crime. He added that it was at the end of a smuggling operation involving people desperate to obtain entry into Ireland.

The judge said Cham's ability to get people outside the airport without going through customs or immigration control was invaluable to the people behind the operation.

Judge Nolan backdated the four-year prison term to January 2017, when Cham was arrested.

He noted that Cham was otherwise a very hard-working man, and a man of ability.

After his arrest, Cham described the scheme to investigators, telling them: "Tell a little rat there's a hole there, out you go, it's not a criminal enterprise."

He told gardai that he was getting "a little bit of fast cash to get by".

Criminal

He claimed it was a "Mickey Mouse operation" and not a "criminal enterprise" but the court heard gardai did not accept this.

He told investigators that the operation was linked to a man in China.

He identified a number of Western Union transfers of cash, totalling around €6,000, from China and said he and his co-accused got around €2,000 to €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 arriving in Ireland 15 years ago.

The operation came to light on January 10 last year, when a man with a false Irish passport presented at the boarding gate at Dublin Airport in order to fly to London.

Investigations showed that the man had arrived from Madrid the day before and gardai tracked his movements through the airport using CCTV footage.

Detectives identified Cham and his co-worker, who is before the courts and cannot be identified, from the staff swipe card identities and began monitoring them. They established that a travel agent based in Rome was linked to suspicious activity and that another trip was scheduled for January 22.

Gardai set up a surveillance operation and identified the earlier foreign national arriving back in Ireland and being met by Cham and the co-accused.

Sean Gillane SC, defending, told the court that there was no evidence of exploitation or intimidation of the people being smuggled into the country.

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