Refugee who arrived in Britain on the back of a lorry smuggled in 10,000 illegal immigrants

A refugee who arrived in Britain on the back of a lorry went on to head a gang who smuggled 10,000 migrants across the channel.

Hewa Rahimpur, 30, an Iranian Kurd, was granted leave to remain in the UK in 2020.

He headed the vast people smuggling network from his home in Ilford, east London, sourcing vessels in Turkey and delivering them to Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Dramatic footage captured the moment National Crime Agency officers arresting Rahimpur at the wheel of a black Mercedes in Wanstead Park on 4 May last year.

The investigation began with the seizure of a number of boats and outboard motors by Belgian police near the Belgian-French border in October 2021.

Phone analysis showed drivers transporting the vessels had been in contact with a UK-based phone number, which was traced to Rahimpur in east London where he was detained.

His arrest triggered a Europe-wide operation to bring down other members of the network, which led to arrests in the UK, Germany, France and Netherlands in July 2022.

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

Last July a judge ordered Rahimpur should be extradited to Belgium to face trial in Belgium.

Prosecutors accused him of being engaged in ‘systematic human smuggling’ using small boats, charging migrants between £3,000 and £6,000 to make the crossing.

A judge in Bruges found him guilty and sentenced him to eleven 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.’