The suspected ringleader of an organised criminal network thought to be behind hundreds of attempts to smuggle migrants into the UK has been arrested by the National Crime Agency.
31-year-old Albanian national Alket Dauti was detained at his home address in Penge, south-east London, this morning (20 June).
The arrest was part of a joint UK-Belgian investigation into a crime group thought to be using corrupt truck drivers to smuggle men, women and children into the UK, sometimes using refrigerated lorries.
The trucks would pick up migrants in Belgium and transport them to the UK via the Channel ports.
Prosecutors in Belgium believe that the network was highly organised and had been operating for some time, often organising several smuggling runs every week. In total they are likely to have been involved in hundreds of attempts to reach the UK.
Some of those attempts were thwarted when the NCA passed intelligence to Border Force, who then intercepted the migrants on arrival in the UK.
Dauti will now appear before Westminster Magistrates, where he will face extradition to Belgium to face people smuggling charges. Ten other people have already been arrested in connection with the same investigation in Belgium, France and Spain.
NCA branch commander Aaron Chappell said:
“Organised criminals involved in people smuggling treat humans as just another commodity they can make money out of, with little or no regard for their safety.
“This is demonstrated by the fact they were perfectly happy for men, women and children to spend hours travelling hundreds of miles in freezing refrigerated lorries.
“Through our close working with the Belgian Federal Police and prosecutors we believe we have been able to take out the UK end of this network, and they will now face the courts in Belgium.”
Frank Demeester, Belgian Federal prosecutor for West Flanders, said:
“We have worked together with the NCA and this case proves that international co-operation is the only way to handle organised crime groups involved in people smuggling.