East Sussex man arrested on suspicion of aiding people smugglers in France

An East Sussex man was arrested on suspicion of supplying small boats to aid people smugglers in France.

A 30-year-old man was arrested in town today. Picture from the NCA SUS-201016-164554001
A 30-year-old man was arrested in town today. Picture from the NCA SUS-201016-164554001

National Crime Agency (NCA) investigators said they made a series of arrests as part of two separate investigations targeting suspected people smugglers.

NCA officers detained the 30-year-old in Hastings at around 9am on Friday (October 16).

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Shortly afterwards a property in Battle Road, St Leonards, was searched.

The seized vessel was recovered from St Margaret’s Bay in Kent on September 2. Picture from the NCA SUS-201016-164713001

The operation was supported by officers from Sussex Police.

The man has since been released under investigation.

The NCA said the investigation relates to the sale and distribution of vessels sourced in the UK, and subsequently taken to France to be used in cross-Channel facilitation attempts.

One such vessel was recovered from St Margaret’s Bay in Kent on September 2, a day in which around 400 people reached the UK using small boats.

The investigation is being supported by Project Invigor, the immigration crime taskforce led by the NCA, but also including Immigration Enforcement, Border Force and the CPS, and also French law enforcement.

Separately, NCA officers have made another series of arrests as part of an investigation targeting a criminal network suspected of smuggling migrants into the UK in vans or lorries.

They detained four men, two Albanian nationals and two Romanian nationals, near the A2 Cobham Services, Kent at around 8am on Friday after witnessing what is believed to have been a handover of migrants from a lorry into two cars.

Four Albanian migrants were also detained and have now been handed to the immigration authorities.

All those arrested are now being questioned on suspicion of facilitating illegal immigration.

Andrea Wilson, NCA regional head of investigations, said: “The organised crime groups involved in people smuggling are cynical in their exploitation of migrants, and are happy to put them in incredibly dangerous and life-threatening situations, either in boats or in the back of lorries.

“We believe this activity today will significantly disrupt at least two such networks.

“Working with partners we are determined to do all we can to disrupt and dismantle the criminals behind these crossings, and our investigation into this particular criminal enterprise continues.”

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