Arrested: Ilford man suspected of supplying small boats for people smuggling

A group of migrants are brought in to Dungeness, Kent, onboard the RNLI Lifeboat

A group of people thought to be migrants brought to Kent onboard an RNLI Lifeboat following a small boat incident in the Channel - Credit: PA

An Ilford man was arrested yesterday at Manor Park, suspected of supplying significant numbers of small boats to people smugglers.

29-year-old Hewa Rahimpur, originally from Iran but now living in Ilford, was detained in an National Crime Agency (NCA) operation at around 1pm on May 4. 

Rahimpur is wanted by the authorities in Belgium, where prosecutors suspect him of being a leading figure in a network engaged in "systematic human smuggling" offences using small boats.

Small boats used to smuggle people across the Channel have been described as "death traps" by NCA deputy director of Organised Immigration Crime, Andrea Wilson. 

The arrest and joint NCA-Belgian investigation follows the seizure of a number of boats and outboard motors, found by Belgian police in the back of a car near the Belgian-French border in October 2021.

The boats are believed to have been sourced in Turkey and then later taken through Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands to the French coast - from where migrants could be transported.  

Rahimpur was arrested at his place of work on Romford Road in Manor Park, Newham. 

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He attended Westminster Magistrates' Court on May 5 for extradition proceedings. 

Further proceedings will take place at the same court on May 13. Rahimpur has been remanded in custody. 

Meanwhile, the NCA continues to look at ways to disrupt the supply of vessels and marine equipment to people smuggling networks and target those involved in such networks. 

In March 2022 the agency reissued an appeal to the UK maritime industry to raise awareness of how they could be targeted by organised crime gangs looking to source boats or equipment.

NCA Deputy Director of Organised Immigration Crime, Andrea Wilson, said: “One of the ways we are seeking to disrupt these people smuggling networks is through targeting their supply of boats.

“Some of the vessels we have seen attempting the Channel crossing have been nothing short of death-traps, held together using gaffer tape and planks of wood.

“Sadly, we have also seen how these crossings have resulted in fatalities, which is why tackling this criminality is a priority for the NCA and our law enforcement partners both in the UK and overseas."