LONDON (AFP) – The UK’s National Crime Agency announced on Wednesday (May 4) it had arrested the suspected leader of an international criminal operation supplying small boats to people smugglers taking migrants across the Channel.
The numbers of migrants crossing the busy shipping lane from northern France is at record levels, prompting a UK crackdown, including controversial proposals to send those arriving to Rwanda.
The NCA said it had arrested “alleged small boats kingpin” Hewa Rahimpur, originally from Iran, at his workplace in east London, following a joint operation by UK and Belgian law enforcement agencies.
It said Rahimpur, 29, was wanted in Belgium on suspicion of being the leading figure in a network that prosecutors there say is involved in “supplying significant numbers of small boats to people smugglers”.
It tweeted footage of agents snapping handcuffs on the man as he sat in a black Mercedes car.
“Rahimpur stands accused of being a major player in what we would say is one of the most significant criminal networks involved in supplying boats to people smugglers,” NCA deputy director of investigations Jacque Beer said in a statement.
“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.”