'Kingpin' trafficker who 'brought 10k to UK' may agree to extradition

People trafficking ‘kingpin’ suspect from Iran, 29, who ‘brought 10,000 people to UK’ may agree to be extradited to Belgium to face trial

  • Hewa Rahimpur, 29, accused of sourcing boats to get migrants over the Channel
  • Arrested in May in Europe-wide op as police seized 135 boats and 1000s of Euros
  • Wanted by authorities in Belgium suspected of ‘systematic human smuggling’
  • At Westminster Magistrates Court today began to consider Belgium extradition

Court sketch of suspected Iranian people trafficking ‘kingpin’ Hewa Rahimpur (right), 29, appearing in the dock at Westminster Magistrates’ Court as proceedings begin for his extradition to Belgium. Prosecutors suspect him of being a leading figure in a ‘systematic human-smuggling’ network

An alleged people trafficking ‘kingpin’ from Iran gang that is believed to have brought up to 10,000 migrants to the UK has said he may agree to being extradited to Belgium to face trial.

Hewa Rahimpur, 29, is accused of sourcing small boats from Turkey and organising their storage in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands before using them to transport migrants across the Channel.

He was arrested in May at the start of a European-wide police operation that saw the confiscation of 135 boats 1,200 life jackets and thousands of Euros in cash – as well as 40 arrests.

Two people arrested in Belgium have identified Rahimpur as the person who purchased boats and organised their transport to the French coast.

He is wanted by the authorities in Belgium where he is suspected of being a leading figure in the network said by prosecutors to be engaged in ‘systematic human smuggling’ offences using small boats. 

Rahimputer ‘stands accused of being a major player in what we would say is one of the most significant criminal networks involved in supplying boats to people smugglers’, Jacque Beer, National Crime Agency (NCA) Deputy Director of Investigations said upon his arrest in May this year.

Rahimpur, currently living in Ilford, east London, was detained in a National Crime Agency (NCA) operation at around 1pm on May 4.

Rahimpur is accused of sourcing the boats in Turkey and having them delivered to locations in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands

Authorities in Belgium want to extradite the alleged people smuggler and he appeared today via video link at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

Benjamin Seifert, defending, said: ‘I understand that Mr Rahimpur is considering consenting to his extradition. I would therefore invite the court to have him produced next week.’

District Judge Daniel Sternberg set another hearing for July 15 for Rahimpur to attend in person so he can sign documents saying he consents to the extradition.

Mr Seifert added: ‘If Mr Rahimpur is considering consenting to the extradition, he should be produced next Friday to have the benefit of seeing that in court.’

Rahimpur is currently on remand at HMP Wandsworth and listened in to the hearing with the help of an Iranian Kurdish interpreter.

Coordinated by EU law enforcement agencies Europol and Eurojust, the international operation against the people-smuggling gang was the largest ever of its kind.

The National Crime Agency said it had arrested six other people this week and had provided intelligence to European partners that led to arrests on the continent.

Jean-Philippe Lecouffe, Deputy Director of Europol, said migrants pay between £2,000 and £9,000 to make the crossing and that the criminal group’s activity generated as much as £51.4 million in 2021 alone.

Frank Demeester, from the prosecutors’ office of West Flanders in Belgium, said after Rahimpur was arrested in May: ‘Together with smuggling of human beings by refrigerated transport, smuggling of by small boats is highest on our priority list.

Andrea Wilson, NCA Deputy Director of Organised Immigration Crime, also said in May: ‘One of the ways we are seeking to disrupt these people smuggling networks is through targeting their supply of boats.

‘Some of the vessels we have seen attempting the Channel crossing have been nothing short of death-traps, held together using gaffer tape and planks of wood.

‘Sadly, we have also seen how these crossings have resulted in fatalities, which is why tackling this criminality is a priority for the NCA and our law enforcement partners both in the UK and overseas.’

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