Three British men have been held by police probing a gang suspected of smuggling more than 300 illegal immigrants into the UK in the back of lorries.
Two of the men suspected of being part of the multi-million pound trafficking network were detained in London on European Arrest Warrants and now face extradition to France to stand trial.
Police say Hojjat Nickhoo, 36, of Enfield, north London, was held as he tried to leave the country at Heathrow airport on Saturday June 15th.
Ayoob Khaleghi, 31, was detained following a raid on Nickhoo’s address last Wednesday.
Both men were remanded in custody ahead of extradition proceedings when they appeared at Westminster Magistrates Court yesterday (MON).
A third man, aged 43 and from Islington, north London, was held by the French authorities in Calais following the London arrests.
The trio are accused of being part of a people smuggling network thought to have brought more than 300 migrants to Britain from France in the backs of lorries.
The UK arrests follow an operation led by the French and Romanian authorities, which saw 11 other people arrested on June 12th as part of the same investigation.
Mark Spoors, branch commander of the National Ctime Agency (NCA) which carried out the London arrests, said: “Gangs involved in organised immigration crime treat migrants as a commodity to be profited out of.
“They don’t care about keeping them in horrendous conditions and moving them hundreds of miles at a time.”
He added: “We are working with international partners to disrupt these criminal networks, attacking their business models and cash flows, and of course seeking to arrest and prosecute those responsible wherever possible.
“Tools such as the European Arrest Warrant are crucial to us in making that happen, allowing both the UK and our European partners to pursue criminals across international borders.”
The latest arrests were co-ordinated by Project Invigor, the NCA-led organised immigration crime task force, working alongside French, Romanian and Dutch law enforcement teams.
The wider criminal network under investigation are suspected of smuggling migrants – mostly of Palestinian, Iraqi, Iranian and Afghan origin – using trucks that belonged to Romanian firms.
The migrants would be transferred to sites in the North of France, Belgium and the Netherlands, before being transported across the Channel to their destination in the UK.
Mr Spoors said migrants would be charged between 11,000 and 14,500 euros. The total illegal proceeds amount to around 3.4 million euros.
French prosecutors believe they have identified more than 59 active gang members after initiating a cross-European investigation last August.