Chiswick Mini-cab Driver built people smuggling empire

Venture ends in tragedy when 283 died in freighter sinking



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A former Chiswick minicab driver is to be tried in a Sicilian court this week over the deaths of 283 people who drowned in 1996.

The rusted freighter that had been chartered by Turab Ahmed Sheik as part of a multi-million pound people smuggling venture that he had developed when working in Chiswick.

According to the Times newspaper the idea for his immigration venture was originally suggested by a friend to Sheik when he was working locally as a mini-cab driver. Sheik reportedly said, He told me there were thousands of Asians who wanted to come to Europe but didn'tt know how to get in. It was just a question of studying visa and customs rules and then helping them. And they paid handsomely.

For eight years he developed a business which expanded massively and is estimated to have transported 25,000 people. But the tragedy in 1996 put an end to his activities.

Sheik is not expected to attend since he has already been acquitted of the charge once. He currently lives in his native Malta where the authorities are unlikely to extradite him a second time. His venture reportedly made him over £10 million but little evidence of the fortune remains as he currently lives alone in a squalid flat in Valetta.

October 19, 2003