People smugglers targeted in one of biggest ever raids

Raids have been carried out on Teesside in a major national operation targeting organised crime gangs involved in people smuggling (Picture: Evening Gazette)

The National Crime Agency launched one of its biggest ever raids to tackle a UK-wide people smuggling network involving suspected Kurdish gangsters. Around 350 officers raided addresses and car washes in Northumbria, Cleveland, Sussex and London this morning following a year-long investigation with links to the French, Belgian and Dutch authorities.

The gang is suspected of charging up to £10,000 per head to smuggle migrants across the Channel. Officers from Immigration Enforcement, HMRC and the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority were carrying out spot inspections of car washes. A suspect was arrested at a house in Middlesbrough during the operation.

Officers at a briefing at Cleveland Police’s HQ in Middlesbrough were told they were looking to arrest two specific men around Teesside suspected of being involved in bringing migrants into the UK in lorries for money. The authorities’ car wash inquiries were aimed at disrupting the gang’s money laundering operation.

A statement on the National Crime Agency reads: ‘The National Crime Agency (NCA) is carrying out a major operation targeting a suspected people smuggling organised criminal network in the North East, London and the South Coast. ‘The operation is the latest phase of a year-long investigation, which has involved law enforcement colleagues in the UK and in Europe. ‘More than twenty properties have been raided by NCA officers supported by Cleveland, Northumbria, Sussex and Metropolitan Police colleagues, and a number of arrests have been made. ‘The operation is ongoing with searches taking place at several locations including Middlesbrough, Hartlepool, Stockton, Newcastle, Hastings and London. A full update will follow later.’




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