A man has been jailed for 11 years for smuggling migrants into the UK on small boats, charging them between £3,000 and £6,000 to make the crossing.

Hewa Rahimpur, originally from Iran, was found to be directing a crime network from his home in Ilford that is believed to have helped over 10,000 people come into the country illegally.

A joint investigation between the National Crime Agency and Belgian authorities uncovered that Rahimpur, 30, had sourced the boats in Turkey.  These were later delivered to locations in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Other members of his criminal organisation had then taken these to the northern French coast from where the migrants were transported.

A probe was launched after several boats and outboard motors were found by Belgian Police in the back of two cars near the Belgian-French border in October 2021.

Phone analysis showed that the drivers were in contact with a UK-based phone number with messages suggesting delivery locations and boat movements.

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NCA officers were able to link the number to Rahimpur and they tracked him down to east London. He was detained pending extradition in Wanstead Park on May 4, 2022.

His arrest triggered a Europe-wide operation to find other members of the network which led to more arrests in the UK, Germany, France and the Netherlands in July 2022.

In Germany, 60 inflatable boats and hundreds of life jackets which would have been used by the gang were seized.

Rahimpur was extradited to Belgium to face trail in Bruges where prosecutors accused him of being engaged in “systematic human smuggling” using small boats.

On Wednesday (October 18) a judge in the Belgian city of Bruges found him guilty and sentenced him to 11 years in prison.

In addition, 19 people were convicted and handed jail terms of between 30 months and eight years in relation to the crime.

Craig Turner, NCA deputy director of investigations, described Rahimpur’s crime network as “one of the most prolific criminal groups” involved in small boat crossings at the time of his arrest.

Bringing him to justice, he said, required the co-operation of law enforcement across Europe.

He further revealed that the NCA alone currently has around 90 other investigations ongoing into high-level organised immigration crime, including those using small boats and HGVs.

He added: “It demonstrates the NCA’s determination to do all we can to disrupt and dismantle these dangerous people smuggling gangs, who treat human lives as a commodity to be profited from while exploiting the UK border.

“The criminal networks do not care about the safety of those they transport and are happy to put people in extremely dangerous and life-threatening situations. This is why disrupting and dismantling them remains a key priority for us.”