Belgium Sentences Members of UK-Based Human Smuggling Ring

Published: 19 October 2023

NCA Rahimpur Human SmugglingRahimpur was the head of an international network that smuggled migrants into the UK. (NCA, License)

By Lieth Carrillo

A Belgian court sentenced the leader of a group that smuggled around 10,000 people to the United Kingdom in small boats to 11 years in prison. British authorities arrested and extradited the Iranian-born man who coordinated his smuggling operations from his home in East London, according to the National Crime Agency.

Hewa Rahimpur, 30, charged migrants $3,650 and $7,300 for his services, which prosecutors describe as "systematic human trafficking," as stated in Wednesday’s release.

Nineteen other individuals involved in the network also received prison sentences, ranging from 30 months to eight years.

Rahimpur procured the boats in Turkey and had them delivered to various locations in Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands. He then guided fellow members of his criminal organization to take the boats to the northern coast of France, where the migrants would embark.

The National Crime Agency and Belgian authorities initiated an investigation after various boats and outboard motors were discovered near the Belgian-French border in October 2021 and seized.

Investigators found that the boat drivers had used their phones to communicate with Rahimpur, discussing movements and delivery locations. This ultimately led to his arrest in May 2022 in London and subsequent extradition to Belgium in July 2022.

Following Rahimpur's apprehension, an international operation was launched across Europe to track down other members of the network. Some were arrested in the United Kingdom, and others in Germany, France, and the Netherlands. Additionally, German authorities seized sixty boats and hundreds of life jackets allegedly used by the gang.

“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 U.K.,” stated Craig Turner, Deputy Director of Investigations at the National Crime Agency.