Seven people arrested in connection with an operation to dismantle an Albanian smuggling network
even people have been arrested in an operation which police say may have “significantly disrupted” a human smuggling ring that illegally displaced hundreds of Albanian migrants to the UK.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) said the suspected ringleader was among those arrested on Tuesday in a series of raids in south London, Surrey, Oxfordshire and Hartlepool.
Investigators believe the suspected smugglers – believed to have contacts in France, Germany, the Netherlands and Poland – used rental trucks and vans to move people to the UK from northern France .
The six men, aged 26 to 44, and a 26-year-old woman who were arrested are being questioned on suspicion of involvement in a series of offenses.
They include suspicion of facilitating illegal immigration, conspiracy to facilitate illegal immigration, money laundering offenses and suspicion of possession of false identity documents.
The NCA said the operation involved around 100 officers, was supported by Metropolitan Police and immigration law enforcement and around £ 30,000 in cash had been recovered.
Searches were also carried out in places in Croydon town center, south London and Hartlepool.
NCA branch commander Richard Harrison said: “The network claimed to provide premium service and billed accordingly, using accomplice drivers to transport migrants in rented vehicles.
“This activity posed a significant threat to both the safety of the migrants involved and the security of UK border controls.”
The ANC said border force officers who carried out vehicle searches at the Channel Tunnel terminal in Coquelles, near Calais, succeeded in stopping six smuggling attempts in the six months leading up to December 2020.
Two more network-related attempts were stopped in May, as NCA investigators shared intelligence with their French and German counterparts, which led to vehicles containing migrants being stopped by police before they were released. can reach the coast.
In some cases, migrants have reportedly paid between £ 20,000 and £ 25,000 to try to reach the UK, according to the NCA.
Financial investigators have identified numerous bank accounts believed to belong to the network, each with tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds in turnover.
NCA Deputy Director Andrea Wilson described human trafficking as “a form of crime that sees people exploited for profit by criminals who have no respect for human life.”
She added that the penalties for those caught are “severe and upsetting” and “it is just not worth the risk”.