TWO Barnsley men have been jailed over a plot to smuggle illegal immigrants into the country.

Albanian nationals Ferdinand Gjolla, 41 and Armand Mekolli 30, were found guilty at Newcastle Crown Court following a trial which lasted more than two weeks.

Gjolla, of Redhill Avenue in Kendray, and Mekolli, of the same address, were sentenced to eight years and three years three months respectively.

A third man involved in the operation - Marek Niedziechi from Warsaw in Poland - was also found guilty and jailed for five years.

The court heard how the smuggling plot was discovered when a truck on a ferry, which docked at North Shields after a voyage from Holland, was searched in September last year.

An officer from the UK Border Agency who conducted the search described how the truck smelled fusty. He then noticed feet sticking out from behind crates of electrical equipment.

A total of 20 illegal immigrants - 19 Albanians and a Syrian - were found to be hiding amongst the cargo.

The court was told that Gjolla organised the conspiracy, his brother-in-law Mekolli assisted him to move the smuggled people once they arrived in the UK and Niedziechi drove the truck.

The Albanian nationals discovered in the lorry were deported almost immediately but the Syrian man claimed asylum in the UK due to the troubles in his homeland.