London, June 26: An unusual operation to smuggle Indians from the UK to the US has been uncovered by Britain’s National Crime Squad (NCS) after nationwide raids involving 200 police officers.
The NCS said suspects were arrested in dawn swoops at their homes in the West Midlands, London, East Sussex, Leicester and Chester. They are being held at police stations across the West Midlands for questioning.
Nine people have so far been arrested in a series of police raids to smash the Midlands-based smuggling operation. More than 200 police officers, many from Midlands police forces, were involved in the raids, part of the largest investigation carried out by the NCS into people smuggling.
NCS assistant chief constable Jon Murphy said today: “The arrests were part of the largest National Crime Squad investigation into immigration crime. We have successfully dismantled an organised criminal enterprise involved in smuggling Indian nationals, including children, from this country to the United States, having previously entered the UK illegally.”
Describing the gangs’ method of operation, he explained: “Members of this enterprise used Heathrow and Gatwick airports to fly the illegal immigrants, who had photo-substitute British passports, over to America. A British national travelling on a legitimate passport would escort them and they were paying up to £20,000 for successful entry.”
The racket will unsettle the Americans who have introduced stricter new controls at ports of entry to stop potential terrorists from getting into the US. Checks include fingerprinting of all passengers and biometric photographs of eyes.
The latest British investigation centres on a crime ring suspected of smuggling illegal immigrants from the UK into the US. Those arrested include a 50-year old man from Stourbridge and a 46-year-old man from Bilston, Wolverhampton.
The gang is not thought to be responsible for bringing the immigrants into the UK in the first place, but for helping people using the UK as a stop-over to enter the US. The racket is believed to have been masterminded in London and Sussex but based in the West Midlands.
Also arrested are two men, aged 51 and 35, from Hove; two men from Leicester, aged 22 and 40; a 63-year-old man from Hendon, north London; a 48-year-old woman from Harrow, north-west London, and a 50-year-old man from Hanbridge in Chester.
Officers from the NCS branch in Rugby spearheaded the investigation as part of the government’s initiative to target organised immigration crime.
Murphy said: “This operation highlights yet another method used by criminal groups to smuggle people between countries, but in partnership with agencies here and overseas we are committed to disrupting and dismantling such organisations. Our thanks goes to the Immigration Service, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the local forces who are all assisting us with the investigation.”