Man accused of being people smuggler boss arrested by NCA

Image source, NCA
Image caption,
The arrested man is accused of being a leading figure in a network said to be engaged in "systematic human smuggling"

A man suspected of being an organised crime boss supplying boats to people smugglers has been arrested in London.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) said they had arrested a man alleged to be Hewa Rahimpur, 29, in Wanstead Park, Redbridge, at about 13:00 BST.

Mr Rahimpur, an Iranian national living in Ilford, is wanted in Belgium accused of being a leader in "systematic human trafficking", according to the NCA.

Extradition proceedings are set to begin on Thursday.

The man is set to appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court, where the proceedings are expected to get under way.

A joint investigation between the NCA and Belgian authorities discovered a number of boats in the back of a car near the Belgian-French border in October 2021.

It is thought the crime group sources the boats in Turkey and has them delivered to locations in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.

The boats are then taken to the northern French coast where they illegally transport migrants, the NCA said.

Image source, NCA
Image caption,
A joint investigation between the NCA and Belgian police led to an arrest

NCA Deputy Director of Investigations Jacque Beer said the crime group was "one of the most significant criminal networks involved in supplying boats to people smugglers".

"Many of the criminal gangs involved in these crossings are based outside of the UK, but where we do find they have a UK footprint we will act swiftly to disrupt and dismantle them."

Frank Demeester, from the prosecutors' office of West Flanders, Belgium, said: "Together with smuggling of human beings by refrigerated transport, smuggling by small boats is highest on our priority list.

"For us, this form of smuggling of human beings is the ultimate threat to life, so we do everything possible to intervene as soon as possible."

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