Dismantling a prolific network of small boat smugglers in an international operation

National Crime Agency officers have targeted members of a major criminal network suspected of being involved in trafficking 10,000 people to the UK.

Around 40 people have been arrested in a series of raids across Europe as the NCA joins the biggest ever international operation targeting small boat smugglers.

The operation is part of a larger NCA activity aimed at dismantling criminal networks and disrupting their operating models.

It was coordinated by the NCA in the UK and by Europol and Eurojust across Europe, also involving partners in Belgium, Germany, France and the Netherlands.

NCA officers arrested six people in London, two of whom were suspected of conspiring to facilitate illegal immigration. Two other men were arrested for immigration offenses while a man and a woman were both detained on suspicion of possessing Class A drugs with the intention of supplying them.

Arrests also took place in Germany, the Netherlands and France.

Many of those arrested abroad were targeted following evidence provided by the ANC to international partners.

The NCA has deployed officers to Germany where more than 60 boats and 900 life jackets, believed to have been used to ferry people across the English Channel, have been recovered from a farm near Osnabruck. They will now be examined by NCA specialists.

Other boats, engines and life jackets were found in the Netherlands, along with pumps used to inflate the dinghies. A total of 135 boats, 45 outboard motors and more than 1,200 life jackets were seized.

NCA Deputy Director of Investigations Jacque Beer said:

“This international investigation targets one of the largest and most prolific criminal groups involved in supplying small boats and moving migrants across the English Channel.

“The NCA played a key role, which took months of planning. We worked closely with partners in France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands to identify suspected members of this network.

“Criminal gangs involved in small boat crossings should know that we are committed to using the full weight of European law enforcement to limit your activities.”

Osnabrück researchThe operation follows the arrest in May by NCA agents of a man living in London who was suspected of being a leading figure in the network. Hewa Rahimpur, 29, from Iran, is wanted by Belgian authorities and is now at risk of extradition from the UK.

He is accused of buying the boats in Turkey and having them delivered to Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. He would then order the other members of his criminal organization to take them to the northern coast of France, from where the migrants would be transported.

Those arrested for conspiring to facilitate illegal immigration into London yesterday were alleged clients of Rahimpur’s network and were allegedly involved in orchestrating migrant movements and laundering profits.

Others arrested abroad are suspected of being facilitators within the network.

A member of the network was shot and injured in a migrant camp in France in September 2021. This incident is believed to be linked to a subsequent attempted murder in Osnabrück, Germany on November 13, 2021.

Eurojust has set up a coordination center to enable rapid cooperation between the judicial authorities involved in the day of action. Europol supported the operation by facilitating the exchange of information and providing analytical support.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said:

“These arrests send a clear message to criminal gangs preying on vulnerable people across Europe and beyond: we will stop at nothing to end your sordid business, bring you to justice and save lives.

“This hugely significant operation shows once again that the NCA and our international partners are working diligently to dismantle smuggling networks. These callous individuals treat human lives like a commodity and we will continue to work with our partners to ensure they feel the full force of our tougher new laws designed to break their business model and appropriately punish them for their despicable crimes. .

The operation is the latest phase in a series of activities undertaken by the NCA aimed at targeting criminal gangs involved in human trafficking.

Over the past year, the NCA has been involved in around 300 organized crime immigration arrests, both in the UK and overseas, and is currently carrying out over 60 organized crime investigations. in matters of immigration.

Since the NCA created a Joint Intelligence Cell (JIC) with French law enforcement, which sees British agents based in France specifically target small boat smugglers, at least 21 organized crime groups have been dismantled in France .

NCA Threats Branch Deputy Director Andrea Wilson said:

“Smugglers risk the lives of vulnerable people for profit, and targeting them is a priority for the NCA.

“We achieve this by working closely with partners to arrest and prosecute smugglers where we can, both in the UK and overseas.

“We are also disrupting their ship supply, shutting down social media accounts advertising their services and targeting financial transactions.”

“Our intelligence tells us it has an impact.”

In March 2022, the NCA repeated a call for the UK shipping industry to raise awareness of how they could be targeted by CMOs seeking to source boats or equipment.

Sellers were asked to report suspicious or unusual purchases of untreated plywood panels, PVC tarpaulin sheets and duct tape. These materials are often used by smugglers to reinforce or modify the inflatable structures used during crossing attempts.

Last December, the NCA announced an action plan agreement with social media companies, which has resulted in greater collaboration against criminal groups using social media to recruit, communicate and advertise a range of services to immigrants.

Since taking effect, the NCA has worked with the platforms to have more than 1,400 posts, pages or accounts that advertise immigration-related organized crime services removed.

July 6, 2022