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Nottingham Post
Nottingham Post
Michael Broomhead

Nottingham gang member involved in 'sophisticated' people smuggling ring

Five men - including one from Nottingham - have been jailed for a total of almost 24 years for running a large-scale people smuggling ring. The gang brought nearly 2,000 Kurdish migrants, including children, into the UK hidden in the back of lorries.

Manchester Crown Court heard how Tarik Namik, 45, from Oldham, headed up the organised crime group which became subject of a National Crime Agency (NCA) investigation in 2017. Hardi Alizada, 32, of Potters Hollow, Bulwell, travelled out to Europe to co-ordinate from there.

Namik operated a sophisticated, lucrative criminal enterprise transporting migrants from Iraq and Iran and had connections with other people smugglers overseas. Working alongside him and Alizada were Hajar Ahmed, 39, from Manchester, and Soran Saliy, 32, from Stoke, who would help co-ordinate the UK leg of the operation.

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Habil Gider, 54, from Stoke, would act as an escort for some of the migrants once they were in the UK. The gang utilised complicit lorry drivers usually from Turkey.

NCA branch commander Richard Harrison said: “The NCA have dismantled a prolific and sophisticated crime group involved in organised immigration crime. The criminal group sought to subvert the UK asylum system for their own financial gain, putting vulnerable migrants – including young children - at great risk by transporting them in the back of lorries or in concealments.

“This investigation demonstrates the NCA’s commitment to tackling organised immigration crime, working with partners to relentlessly pursue those intent on smuggling vulnerable migrants into the UK."

Mike Duffy, Specialist Prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), added: “These criminals were involved in a large scale, highly professional, people smuggling operation, which aimed to secure the unlawful entry of asylum seekers into the United Kingdom for profit. The criminal organisation took substantial sums of money from vulnerable migrants desperate for a new life, promising to assist them into the country.

Namik and Gider meeting at Namik’s car wash in Stockport (National Crime Agency)

“Namik played a leading role in the network and oversaw the movement of a large number of migrants, some of whom, including children, were put in significant danger when being transported concealed in the back of a lorry. We worked closely with the NCA to build a strong case resulting in their conviction, disrupting the dangerous, exploitative and illegal movement of people into the country for profit. The CPS will use the Proceeds of Crime Act to relentlessly pursue any ill-gotten gains from this offending.”

Recordings found on Namik’s phone suggest that he may have been involved in the smuggling of at least 1,900 migrants from the Balkans into France or Germany during a 50-day period, charging around 1,800 euros per migrant. The group would then offer two separate means of getting to the UK, which would incur extra cost.

The first, an ‘escorted’ facilitation, would see individual migrants collected by complicit lorry drivers in France or Belgium and hidden within their lorry, sometimes within the wind deflector above the cab, then met by an escort – usually taxi-driver Gider – once they had arrived into Dover. Gider would then take them on to their final destination.

Gider was caught red-handed carrying out one such facilitation in November 2017 after his car was stopped by the NCA driving north on the M26 in Kent. An Iraqi-Kurd woman was sitting in the rear – she had just arrived in a lorry into Dover.

He had been in contact with Saliy throughout the day prior to his arrest. Following it, both Saliy and Namik binned the phones they had been using.

Eight days previously, Gider had been involved in another attempted facilitation, but this time a migrant was discovered during checks at the border controls in Calais. Gider was in contact with Saliy throughout the day, who was in turn speaking to Alizada, who was in France.

Gider waited at South Mimms service station on the M25 for instruction - but after Alizada informed Saliy the attempt had been unsuccessful, Gider was told to return to Stoke empty-handed. The other method would be to conceal larger groups of migrants in the back of a lorry, also driven by a complicit haulier, to be released once the driver was safely through border controls.

Once here, the migrants would claim asylum. In one such event in September 2017, nine migrants were released from a Polish lorry in a layby in Skelmersdale, Lancashire. Their escape was witnessed by another driver.

One of the migrants had just dialled 999 to beg for help. The group, which included five children, were desperate for food and water and were taken to hospital.

Prior to the event, both Namik and Ahmed were in contact with a Belgian-based people smuggler, called Dilman Jamal Ali, to arrange their movement. Ali was later convicted in Belgium for offences in connection with the incident.

Namik’s operation was finally dismantled in April 2018 when he, Ahmed and Saliy were arrested by officers from the NCA. Alizada was arrested in Nottingham in February 2019 and charged in connection with his role.

All five admitted charges against them during a series of previous hearings. Today (December 9), they were collectively sentenced to 23 years and 11 months at Manchester Crown Court. Alizada received one year, four months' imprisonment.

Tariq Namik failed to attend court for the hearing. He was sentenced in his absence to 8 years and a warrant has now been issued for his arrest.

Ahmed was sentenced to 4 years and 9 months, Gider received 4 years and 6 months, Saliy was jailed for 5 years and 4 months and Alizada was sentenced to 1 year and 4 months.

Namik pleaded guilty to conspiracy to help asylum seekers enter the United Kingdom. The other defendants pleaded guilty to four counts of helping asylum seekers to enter the United Lingdom

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