Fugitive head of people-smuggling gang nabbed on return to UK

LONDON: The convicted ringleader of a “prolific” Kurdish people-smuggling gang, on the run when he was sentenced in absentia last month to eight years in prison, has been arrested, the National Crime Agency (NCA) said Saturday.
Tarik Namik, 45, of Oldham near Manchester, northwest England, was detained on Friday after landing at Manchester Airport on a flight from Istanbul.
Police had issued a warrant for his arrest following his no-show at Manchester Crown Court last month, when he was convicted of heading a “sophisticated, lucrative criminal enterprise” smuggling Kurdish migrants.
Working with traffickers abroad, the group is suspected of smuggling at least 1,900 migrants who were picked up in the Balkans and brought to France or Germany during a 50-day period.
The gang then offered different means for trying to enter Britain, where the migrants would claim asylum.
Kurdish criminal groups control the increasingly lucrative cross-Channel illegal migration routes, using both lorries and, more recently, small boats to cross the busy shipping lane, according to the NCA.
A surge in the small vessel crossings since 2017 has led to tens of thousands of migrants now arriving annually on England’s southeastern coast, rather than stowed away in trucks.
Alongside Namik, four other men — based in Manchester, Stoke-on-Trent and Nottingham — received sentences ranging from 16 months to nearly five years for their role in the criminal scheme.
All five had admitted the charges against them at previous hearings.
Namik was to appear Saturday before Manchester magistrates before being formally sentenced at the city’s crown court on Monday.
“Namik was a prolific people smuggler whose crime group put vulnerable migrants at great risk while he reaped the profits,” said NCA Branch Commander Richard Harrison.
“Fugitives never come off our radar, and I’d like to thank our colleagues at Greater Manchester Police for their assistance in ensuring he was detained quickly the moment he set foot back in the UK.”