A MAN from Grays has been arrested and is believed to be the ringleader of an illegal immigration racket that was the subject of a major police operation today (Monday, 19 June).
The suspected ringleaders of a huge organised crime group that smuggled migrants illegally into the UK have been arrested in Essex today (June 19).
Three alleged members of the Albanian group are reported to have smuggled in migrants including children and a convicted rapist who had already been deported from the country.
A 34-year-old man from Grays and a 34-year-old man from Dagenham – the suspected group ringleaders – were apprehended this morning on suspicion of assisting unlawful immigration.
NCA investigators believe the group have facilitated the illegal entry of numerous migrants, charging between £2,500 and £7,500 each time, including an event last August where a small boat with 46 migrants on board left from the French coast and was intercepted in British waters.
hose on board were predominantly Albanian nationals and included young children (see video clip). One of those attempting to make the crossing was a convicted rapist who had previously been deported from the UK and has now been deported again, the NCA said.
Passengers were removed from the boat and taken to a holding centre by Border Force officers. The NCA, working with Border Force’s Small Boats Operational Command, investigated the incident. Three further events believed to be linked to the group involving an HGV were identified by NCA officers in October and November 2022.
The lorry is believed to have travelled from Coquelles, France, on three separate occasions, stopping at service stations in Cobham and Thurrock to drop off migrants. The HGV driver, a 55-year-old man from Belgium, was arrested when his lorry was stopped in Folkestone today.
Two other men were arrested on suspicion of unlawful entry to the UK at an address in North London. All of those arrested remain in custody to be questioned by NCA officers.
Chris Farrimond, Director of Threat Leadership at the NCA, said: “We have dismantled a suspected organised crime group behind a number of dangerous migrant crossings last year. People smugglers do not care about the safety of those they transport, they seek to exploit them for profit.
“Tackling organised immigration crime is a priority for the NCA and we have more than 90 ongoing investigations into networks based here and overseas causing the highest harm. As we target callous organised criminal gangs, we will not hesitate to also pursue HGV drivers complicit in helping them.”