A smuggler wrongly accused of transporting 29 people across the Channel in a rubber dinghy says smugglers are clearly visible inside makeshift French camps.
Ranjdar Mohammed-Saeid was partly acquitted thanks to a TikTok video showing him sitting far from the helm of the canoe.
He also revealed that multilingual ‘agents’ based in the ‘new jungle’ were arranging crossings to Kent for £ 2,000.
The 27-year-old was tried last week by Canterbury Crown Court for aiding illegal immigration to the UK, but was acquitted after just 27 minutes.
It is alleged that the Iraqi national steered the boat to Dungeness beach on April 21 after he threw his cell phone into the sea.
But Mr Mohammed-Saeid told jurors “not once in my life have I driven a boat”, including during the eight-hour trip.
When prosecutors asked Mohammed-Saeid how he arrived in northern France, he said he was transported from Kurdistan, via Italy and France by truck to Dunkirk.
At the “Jungle” camp, he befriended other Kurds “Mohammad” and “Rezman”, and met a smuggler called “Mala”.
He described how the camp-based smugglers spoke a multitude of languages to meet the needs of many nationalities hoping to cross the water; Vietnamese, Kurdish, Afghan for example.
When asked if he had found an agent in The Jungle, Mohammed-Saeid replied, “Yes, there are a lot of them in The Jungle, anyone can see them.
“My father paid £ 2,000 for the crossing from France,” he added.
Mohammed-Saeid argued that he, along with Mohammad and Rezman, expected to make the crossing by truck.
But Mala insisted they left by canoe shortly after midnight with 26 other people, mostly from Vietnam but also from Afghanistan.
At 3 p.m. the next day, Mohammad-Saeid was arrested after police reportedly saw him at the helm before killing the outboard motor.
With the help of an interpreter, he described an elaborate way of paying “agents” inside the camps.
After reaching the jungle and meeting Mala, he would use the Vyber phone app to contact his father for money.
His father then transferred £ 2,000 to a transfer shop which, when Mr Mohammed-Saeid made the crossing, would be deposited into the smuggler’s bank account.
Mr. Mohammed-Saeid told the court he was “not sure” whether the money was spent, given that he was in detention.
After his arrest, he told officers he threw his phone into the sea before landing, the court said.
But Mr Mohammed-Saeid argued that the driver, “a little man”, snatched his phone and threw it into the water after “everyone took selfies”.
When asked why he stopped the engine in sight of the officers, Mohammed-Saeid said: “As we reached the beach some people managed to jump but I couldn’t because of my state.
“The boat was moving, I couldn’t keep my balance until I shut off the engine.”
Jurors saw a 19-second TikTok clip of the trip apparently filmed by a passenger.
It appeared to represent Mr. Mohammed-Saeid sitting away from the bar among people, including a young boy, huddled on the raft halfway.
“I’m going to suggest that your story of landing and stopping the engine just isn’t true.
“The police officer was right when he saw you a few feet away, driving the boat,” said prosecutor Daniel Bunting.
“One hundred percent I didn’t do it,” replied Mohammed-Saeid.
The prosecutor also told the court that the 29 people aboard the boat, all of whom initially applied for asylum, were all missing except “five or six”.
Represented by Gordon Ross, Mr. Mohammed-Saeid was acquitted unanimously.