Six people smugglers have been jailed for a total of 26 years for transporting migrants into the UK in the back of a refrigerated lorry through Portsmouth port.

But the alleged ringleader of the crime group remains at large and is now wanted by the National Crime Agency, as is another member of the crime group.

Goran Jalal, aged 37 and from Bradford, is suspected of organising crossings, while Hemin Ali Salih, aged 37 and from Manchester, is wanted after being convicted of attempting to use Jalal’s criminal network to smuggle a relative to Britain.

NCA officers are issuing appeals for the whereabouts of both men following the sentencing today (10 May) of the remaining members of the gang.

Key to the plot was Romanian lorry driver Marinel Danut Palage, aged 31, who carried out migrant runs for the network in his truck, using crossings from Normandy into Portsmouth.

Kamaran Kader, aged 44, from Bradford and Pshtewan Ghafour, aged 37 and from Middlesbrough acted alongside Jalal and worked with Palage to organise crossings.

The gang were arrested in an NCA operation in March 2019, when surveillance officers followed them to a handover meeting on an industrial estate in Runcton, West Sussex.

At least three migrants travelled in Palage’s lorry on a ferry from Caen in France, before being collected by cars driven by other gang members.

In one of the cars was Kader and Jalal. Both men were arrested by NCA officers at a service station on the A3 as they drove away from the area. They had earlier handed over two migrants to other gang members.

Jalal later absconded from bail.

Phone evidence showed that Ghafour had also travelled down to Portsmouth on the same night, while both Ghafour and Kader’s fingerprints were found on bags and envelopes of cash that NCA officers found in Palage’s lorry.

Following a four week trial at Bournemouth Crown Court, Palage and Ghafour were found guilty of conspiring to facilitate illegal immigration on Tuesday 14 March. They were sentenced to nine and five years in prison respectively on 13 April.

As part of the same trial Jamal Walid Saied, 38, Mariwan Tofiq Mustafa, 33, and Salih were all found guilty of facilitating illegal immigration. They were today handed sentences of three years, two-and-a half-years, and two years respectively.

Salih absconded before the start of the trial and was convicted and sentenced in his absence. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.

Kader had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing and was sentenced to four-and-a-half years on 20 April at the same court.

NCA Branch Commander Richard Harrison said; “People smugglers risk lives, which is why targeting them is a priority for the NCA and we are doing all we can to disrupt and dismantle the criminal networks involved.

“The men convicted and sentenced put profit ahead of people. They were happy to put vulnerable migrants into the backs of lorries for long Channel sea crossings, and I’m delighted they are now behind bars.

“But Goran Jalal and Hemin Ali Salih both remain at large. Warrants have been issued for their arrests, and we will not rest until they are in custody.”

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of either Jalal or Salih should contact the NCA on 0370 4967622 or, alternatively, the charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.