Two east London men have been jailed for their involvement in an organised crime group that smuggled hundreds of people into and out of the UK.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) investigation - codenamed Operation Symbolry - has dismantled the London-based crime group which used a network of complicit lorry drivers to mvoe people in both directions across the Channel.

These included a number of fugitives who were seeking to leave the UK as they were wanted for serious crimes such as child abuse and murder, said the NCA.

Mohammed Mokter Hossain, 54, of Gaynes Hill Road, Woodford Green, co-ordinated the movements of drivers and arranged for taxis to drop off migrants at their pick-up locations.

Following his arrest a ledger was found outlining details of the hundreds of men, women and children who had used his services.

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It also noted the amounts he had charged them. NCA investigators think he is likely to have made in excess of £1 million from his criminal activity.

Hossain worked with Noor Ullah, 30, of Church Lane, Leytonstone, the NCA said.

Investigators moved in to arrest them in May 2021 in an operation which also saw the discovery of a safe house in Bethnal Green, east London, which was used to accommodate people being smuggled.

The property had been converted to accommodate at least 19 people, with bunk beds filling every room.

Eight men who were in the UK illegally were found staying there at the time – they were handed to the immigration authorities.

Following his arrest, Hossain admitted conspiring with Ullah to move people into and out of the UK between December 2018 and May 2021, but he continued to deny being head of the crime group.

This was rejected by the judge HHJ Sandy Canavan at a Newton hearing, who described his story as a “tissue of lies” and said: “You have lied time and time again.

“Dishonesty, greed and wickedness have led you to where you are today.”

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On Friday June 23, Hossain was jailed for 10-and-a-half years at Snaresbrook Crown Court.

Ullah initially denied the charges against him, but on the first day of his trial he pleaded guilty to conspiring to smuggle people out of the UK between September 2020 and May 2021.

He was sentenced to two years and five months in prison.

NCA senior investigating officer Chris Hill said: “Our investigation has successfully dismantled the UK arm of this people smuggling network from top to bottom, including the organisers, middle-men and the lorry drivers being used.

“We believe they smuggled hundreds of people into and out of the UK, including fugitives wanted for murder and child abuse offences...

“People smugglers don’t care about safety or border security – they just see people as a commodity to be profited from.

“This can have fatal consequences, which is why tackling it is such a priority for the NCA.”