National Crime Agency raid in Hartlepool linked to Albanian people smuggling network
Serious crime fighting chiefs say they have smashed an Albanian people smuggling network suspected of bringing hundreds of people into the UK illegally after Hartlepool are among the locations in a series of raids.
Seven people have been arrested as part of the National Crime Agency (NCA) operation aimed at dismantling an organised crime group following raids in south London, Surrey, Oxfordshire and Hartlepool on July 20.
Among those held include the suspected ringleader of the people smuggling network which investigators believe used lorries and hired vans to transport individuals from northern France.
NCA Branch Commander Richard Harrison said: “We believe these arrests will have significantly disrupted an organised criminal network responsible for smuggling potentially hundreds of people into the UK illegally.
“The network claimed to provide a top of the range service and charged accordingly, using complicit drivers to transport migrants in hired vehicles.
“This activity represented a significant threat to both the safety of the migrants involved and the security of UK border controls.”
The group are alleged to have had contacts across Europe, in France, Germany the Netherlands and Poland.
Several attempts to smuggle people into the country were stopped by Border Force officials after searching vehicles at the Channel Tunnel near Calais in France.
All were subsequently linked to the organised crime group being investigated.
The operation, which involved around 100 officers, was supported by the Metropolitan Police and Immigration Enforcement.
All seven arrested are now being questioned on suspicion of offences including conspiring to facilitate illegal entry to the UK and money laundering.