Small boats kingpin jailed for smuggling thousands into UK

Migration Hewa Rahimpur

Migration: Hewa Rahimpur, 30, originally from Iran has been jailed

Tom Fredericks

By Tom Fredericks

Published: 18/10/2023

- 10:39

A former asylum seeker has been jailed for leading a criminal gang

A former asylum seeker has been jailed for leading a criminal gang that smuggled up to 10,000 people to the UK in small boats.

Hewa Rahimpur, 30, originally from Iran, directed the gang from his home in Ilford, east London, sourcing the boats in Turkey and organising their delivery to locations in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.

The boats were then sent on to Northern France and used to transport illegal migrants across the Channel.

Rahimpur was arrested in East London in May 2022 as part of a joint investigation involving the UK’s National Crime Agency and Belgian authorities.

His arrest triggered a Europe-wide operation to smash the gang, leading to arrests in the UK, Germany, France and Netherlands in July 2022.

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60 inflatable boats and hundreds of life jackets which would have been used by the gang were seized in Germany.

Rahimpur was extradited to Belgium accused of being involved in ‘systematic human smuggling’ using small boats, charging migrants between £3,000 and £6,000 to make the crossing.

Today, a judge in the Belgian city of Bruges found him guilty and sentenced him to 11 years in prison.

Another 19 people were convicted alongside him and handed jail terms of between 30 months and eight years.

NCA Deputy Director of Investigations Craig Turner said: “Hewa Rahimpur’s network was, at the time of his arrest, one of the most prolific criminal groups involved in small boat crossings, playing a part in transporting thousands of migrants to the UK.

“Bringing him to justice required the co-operation of law enforcement across Europe. It demonstrates the NCA’s determination to do all we can to disrupt and dismantle these dangerous people smuggling gangs, who treat human lives as a commodity to be profited from while exploiting the UK border.

“And our work is continuing – the NCA alone currently has around 90 investigations ongoing into high-level organised immigration crime, including those using boats and HGVs.

“The criminal networks do not care about the safety of those they transport, and are happy to put people in extremely dangerous and life-threatening situations. This is why disrupting and dismantling them remains a key priority for us.”

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