RUTHLESS gang members who demanded thousands of pounds to smuggle people into the UK have been ordered to cough up their cash.

Alan Hoger, 34, led the criminals who exploited people’s desperate bids to reach the country.

Asylum seekers and migrants were either stuffed into the wind deflectors of lorries or under the trailers in a bid to avoid capture.

Their families had to pay £10,000 for the gang to take the criminals on board.

Detectives from the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit (Serocu) uncovered the network which specialised in smuggling people from Iraq and Kurdistan into the UK.

But after trials, 13 members were jailed for a total of 45 years for offences including conspiracy to assist in unlawful immigration, money laundering and perverting the course of justice.

This month, six members were back in court as cash from their criminal operation was seized. More than £326,000 was taken from them.

Hoger, 34, of Kenilworth Road, St Leonards, had gained more than £540,000, and was ordered to pay back £247,000 from assets which could be seized.

His wife Kveta Conkova, 32, also of Kenilworth Road, benefited to the tune of £50,000, but only had to pay back £1 because she has no assets.

Goran Ahmed, aged 35, of Farley Bank, Hastings, gained more than £220,000 and must pay £22,735.

The court also ordered Alan Salam, aged 35, of The Rookery, Eastbourne, to pay back more than £3,300 after gaining a benefit of £33,803.

Meanwhile Bakhtyar Mohammed, 47, of Netherfield Road, Bolton, and Cristinel Samson, aged 51, of Grimstone Avenue, Folkestone, must also pay back thousands of pounds.

Previously The Argus reported how the gang took advantage of their connections to the Middle East to exploit people for their own greed.

Detective Chief Inspector Steve May said: “They targeted the Kurdish community and looked to make as much profit out of every individual they could exploit. Their only concern was their profit margins.

“This case should serve as a clear warning to those involved in people trafficking.

“Be in no doubt, we have an extensive investigative network and range of tactics to combat criminal activity.

“We will seek them out and bring them before the courts.”

*Update: Arie Ali, now 28, formerly of Ashton Rise, Brighton, pictured above, was part of the gang convicted in July 2019, but was not subject to financial proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act as those mentioned above.

He was found guilty and jailed for three years for conspiracy to assist in unlawful immigration into the UK.