Suspected members of an Organised Crime Group (OCG) linked to a highly sophisticated people-smuggling operation between Bolivia and the UK, have been arrested this morning (Tuesday 6 December) following a series of warrants executed in South London.
Following an investigation by Home Office officials from the Criminal and Financial Investigations (CFI) team, three individuals, two men and one woman, were arrested at two addresses on suspicion of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.
The arrests included:
- a man aged 41 years at an address in Camberwell
- a man aged 38 years and a woman aged 35 years at an address in Peckham
Two further individuals, a man and a woman, were located in the Peckham property and identified as illegal migrants from Bolivia. They will be processed and dealt with by Immigration Compliance and Enforcement accordingly.
Around £1,500 in cash and two false identity documents were also discovered at the same address. Money seized will be processed using proceeds of crime legislation, while searches of both properties continue.
Robert Jenrick, Immigration Minister said:
The public should be in no doubt of our determination to clamp down on those who violate our laws by exploiting people for their own financial gains.
These individuals thought they were beyond the reach of the law – they were proved wrong.
Today’s operation sends a clear message to people smugglers and those thinking about abusing our immigration laws: you will be caught and brought to justice swiftly.
Tony Hilton, Assistant Director from the Criminal Financial Investigation unit said:
Thanks to the tireless efforts of our officers, we continue to investigate leads relentlessly and execute operations like this so that we can stop and arrest those profiting off abuse of our immigration system.
The individuals are believed to have been abusing the Common Travel Area between Dublin and Belfast, charging migrants thousands of pounds to be flown from Bolivia to the UK via the Republic of Ireland.
Once smuggled into the country by the OCG, most of the migrants are believed to have been working here illegally.
All suspects were taken into custody in South London, and will be flown today to Belfast, Northern Ireland, for questioning by CFI Northern Ireland.
A further individual associated with the investigation was arrested in September 2022 by Immigration Enforcement officers in Northern Ireland and subsequently charged. He remains in custody.
This investigation involves ongoing collaboration between the British and Irish governments, who work closely through the Cross-Border Joint Agency Taskforce to disrupt OCGs and tackle organised immigration crime, modern slavery and human trafficking.
Today’s raid forms part of Immigration Enforcement’s ongoing work to prevent illegal migration through their investigation work. As of November, 189 people have been convicted for immigration crimes resulting in a total of nearly 179 years in sentencing.
So far this year, there have been 52 convictions relating to people smuggling cases, resulting in a combined total of over 82 years in prosecutions. This includes 21 small-boats-related convictions for a total of over 11 years and 31 convictions for facilitating migrants in vehicles for a total of over 72 years.