Pointe aux Oies in France where the smugglers picked up their cargo. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Three British men, including a retired Royal Navy captain, were jailed last week by a court in France after being caught trying to smuggle Vietnamese migrants into the United Kingdom from a French beach.

Ronald Scott, a 70-year-old captain, was reportedly in charge of the smuggling trip which was cut short by the French marine police on Aug. 30. French authorities acted on a tip that Scott and crewman Toby Lake, 24, had left the coast of Kent early in the morning, the Daily Mail reported.

Scott’s vessel was later detected near Pointe aux Oies (Geese Point), which is a well-known camping ground.

Prosecutors said another accomplice named Stephen Chapman was spotted signaling from Wimereux beach. A total of 12 Vietnamese swam towards the vessel when it was about 100 meters from the beach. All but one made it into the boat as he had trouble with the rope ladder.

Authorities then boarded the boat and arrested everyone, including the person in the water and Chapman, who was still on the shore. The immigrants told authorities that each of them paid the smugglers £8,000 (US$10,289) to be reunited with their relatives in the UK.

In court, Scott and Lake said the true mastermind of the operation was a man named “Fred,” who coerced them into people smuggling. They added that they had not yet received any payments.

Scott was sentenced to two and a half years in a French prison, Chapman to two years and Lake one year. Both Scott and Chapman will be denied entry to France for a decade upon release, and Lake will be banned from the northern French coast for 10 years as well.

The Vietnamese are now under French care.