“I normally get arrested for drugs” - Pilot joked after arrest over botched people smuggling attempt

By Gangsters Inc. Editors

A British pilot and career criminal was imprisoned on Friday alongside two other men in connection with a plot to fly four Albanian illegal immigrants into the United Kingdom. As the pilot was arrested he joked: “I normally get arrested for drugs, so it’s a bit strange.”

As part of a National Crime Agency investigation, 53-year-old Richard Styles was arrested at Deenethorpe Airfield near Corby, Northamptonshire, in March 2022. He had just flown his twin-engine plane to the airfield from Belgium, carrying with him three men and a woman who were all attempting to evade immigration checks.

11037792099?profile=RESIZE_710xPhoto (left to right): Richard Styles, Silvano Turchet and Vijayakumar Sivakumar

NCA investigators found that Styles had worked with former pilot and fellow aviation buff Silvano Turchet, aged 68, to rent the six-seater Piper Seneca for £1,500 from an airfield in Lincolnshire.

Styles flew it down to Deenethorpe, where Turchet had paid for it to be stored in a hangar before flying to Belgium on March 23.

Investigators believe the men were in contact with an Albanian known as ‘Tim K’ who arranged for Styles’ illegal passengers to meet him in Belgium. When the plane returned to the UK the next day, an NCA surveillance team was waiting.

As Styles was arrested he joked: “I normally get arrested for drugs, so it’s a bit strange.”

Shortly after Styles’ arrest the Albanian group were detained by Northants Police officers, who were working with the NCA, in a Mercedes taxi driven by Vijayakumar Sivakumar. The migrants were handed to the immigration authorities.

Sivakumar, 43, who was previously convicted for trying to smuggle someone into the UK in the boot of his car, was also arrested. Phone records showed he had been in contact with Tim K in the run up to the flight.

Smuggling ecstasy and cannabis

Styles had previous convictions for using a plane to smuggle ecstasy tablets out of Belgium in 2003, and drop cannabis into Jersey the same year while he was on the run from the Belgian authorities. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2006, where he is believed to have met Turchet.

The pair were arrested by the Dutch authorities in 2017 in connection with another people smuggling enterprise. Styles would later be convicted in his absence – he was already in custody in the UK by the time the case came to trial.

Turchet was arrested at his home in Nottingham in July 2022 after NCA investigators identified him as the organizer. He initially denied knowledge of the plot, even though phone data put him near Deenethorpe airfield on 24 March and showed he’d called Styles nine times.

Guilt and punishment

All three men were charged with facilitating a breach of immigration law, a charge Styles admitted at a hearing on August 8, 2022.

Turchet pleaded guilty on the first day of his trial, while Sivakumar was found guilty by a jury after a five day trial at Leicester Crown Court in February 2023.

On April 28, a judge at the same court sentenced Styles to seven years in prison, Turchet to seven-and-a-half years, and Sivakumar to four-and-a-half years.

“Styles was a career criminal who previously used his piloting skills to move consignments of drugs around Europe,” NCA Regional Head of Investigations Jacque Beer said. “On this occasion he was offering a luxury end to end service, bringing people into the UK using a private plane. His comments to my officers show that he considered getting arrested nothing more than an occupational hazard.”

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