May 19, 2024

A man suspected of being a significant leader in a people smuggling organisation has been arrested.

The 45-year-old was arrested in Portsmouth on suspicion of conspiring to facilitate illegal immigration and money laundering.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) says it believes hundreds of people may have been smuggled to the UK in boats and lorries.

The man is in custody being questioned by NCA investigators.

The NCA says he is suspected of controlling a network of people smugglers throughout northern Europe and the Middle East.

NCA officers, supported by Hampshire Police, detained the man at an address in the Kingston area of the city on Wednesday.

Investigators believe he is a significant figure in a Kurdish organised crime group who charged thousands of pounds each time to smuggle people into the UK.

NCA senior investigating officer Rachel Bramley said the arrest marked a “significant point” in a two-year ongoing investigation.

She added: “It is our belief that this crime group were involved in people smuggling activities using a range of methods, all of which were dangerous and potentially life-threatening for those being smuggled.”

“Tackling organised immigration crime remains a priority for the NCA, and our investigation into this network continues.”

A second man, also suspected of being a high-ranking member of the crime group, was arrested in Italy last month.

Extradition proceedings are underway to bring him to the UK to face charges.

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