An alleged “kingpin” of the people-smuggling operations across the English Channel was arrested and faces extradition.
Iranian Hewa Rahimpur was arrested by officers in east London on Wednesday afternoon, the National Crime Agency (NCA) said.
The 29-year-old, who lived in Ilford, is wanted by the Belgian authorities, “where he is suspected of being a figurehead of a network which, according to the prosecutors, is engaged in offenses of “trafficking in ‘systematic human beings’ using small craft. ”.
He is due to appear in Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, where extradition proceedings are expected to begin.
According to the NCA, Rahimpur is accused of procuring boats in Turkey and having them delivered to Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, then ordering “other members of his criminal organization to take them on the northern coast of France, from where immigrants would be transported.
The investigation began after police seized boats and outboard motors from the back of a car near the Belgium-France border in October 2021.
Jacque Beer, NCA’s Deputy Director of Investigations, said: “Rahimpur is accused of being a major player in what we would say is one of the largest criminal networks involved in supplying boats to smugglers.
“Many of the criminal gangs involved in these crossings are based outside the UK, but if we find they have a footprint in the UK we will act quickly to disrupt and dismantle them.”
One of the ways the NCA has sought to disrupt smuggling networks is by targeting their supply of boats.
Andrea Wilson, the organization’s deputy director of immigration organized crime, described some of the vessels as ‘nothing less than death traps, held together with duct tape and planks of wood’ .