Two British businessmen arrested on suspicion of people smuggling offences in dawn raid

9 November 2021, 14:49

One man was arrested in Canary Wharf
One man was arrested in Canary Wharf. Picture: LBC

By Charlotte Lynch

Two British businessmen, suspected of arranging for Albanian nationals to be smuggled in to Britain in the back of hire cars, have been arrested by immigration officers during dawn raids in London.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

LBC was given access to the operation to stop the "prolific" organised crime gang, who officers believe planned to smuggle hundreds of people in to the UK over a six month period.

A 41 year old suspect, taken in to custody in Tower Hamlets, was alleged to be "a well organised, senior member" of the gang, who is accused of being involved in three separate imports of illegal Albanian migrants.

It's understood he runs a tailoring business alongside a 36 year old man, who was arrested in West London. Officers believe the company to be a front for a major people smuggling operation.

David Fairclough, Deputy Director in Immigration Enforcement and Criminal Investigation, told LBC he suspects them to be part of an international gang.

He said: "We’ve found strong associations with Belgium, so we think there is an international network.

"Today, we will evaluate what we have and look to work with our Belgian police colleagues to conduct an investigation there."

The arrests have been described as a "significant development" which might prevent potentially hundreds of migrants being smuggled in to the UK.

Read more: Record 853 migrants cross Channel to the UK in a single day

Read more: Migrant dies in English channel as number of crossings hits record number

Tom Pursglove MP, Minister for Justice and tackling illegal migration, witnessed the operation in East London.

He told LBC: "These criminal gangs, and individuals responsible for facilitation, are putting people’s lives at risk for profit with no regard for the individuals at all. I think that is disgraceful.

"As a government we are determined to pursue these matters to make sure the individuals responsible are under no illusions about the seriousness of what they are doing and that we will pursue it."

21,000 migrants have crossed the Channel to the UK from France so far this year, and Home Office officials told LBC during this morning’s raid, that more made the crossing in the early hours of November 9.

Mr Pursglove said: "We have to make that route unviable and I'm confident the new plan for immigration plays a significant part in delivering that.

"This isn't an issue we can simply solve on our own as a United Kingdom, we have to work with our friends and allies to address this – the French in particular – so there is a multifaceted approach to this challenge going on at the moment.

"We have a comprehensive plan of action and the new plan for immigration will mean, I hope very much, that people won’t even try and attempt to cross the Channel in the future. We need these powers as quickly as possible so we can respond to it."