Human TraffickingNews

Two UK residents jailed as part of people smuggling ring that saw twenty-one people convicted in France

Two UK residents have been jailed for a combined nine and a half years after the National Crime Agency secured their arrests and extradition to France where they were wanted for their part in smuggling at least 250 migrants into the UK. 

The men, both Iranian nationals, were arrested by NCA officers two years ago; 38 year-old Hojjat Nickhoo, from Enfield, was held as he tried to leave the country via Heathrow airport in June 2019, while 33-year-old Ayoob Khaleghi was detained following a raid on Nickhoo’s address.

Through joint work with the Crown Prosecution Service, both were extradited to France in February and September 2020.

They were convicted in a French court in Lille last week [13 October 2021] where they appeared alongside nineteen other men, who all operated within an organised crime network that helped facilitate migrant crossings from France into the UK, mainly in the back of lorries.

Investigators estimate that the group made over four million pounds in just under a year and were charging migrants £10,000 for an adult, and £9000 for a child.

The migrants would be transferred to sites in the North of France, Belgium and the Netherlands, before being transported across the Channel to their destination in the UK.

Nickhoo, one of the ringleaders in the group, received a seven year sentence last week – the longest custodial term of all those convicted.

Collectively, all of the defendants in court were sentenced to a total of 81 and a half years in prison.

Khaleghi received a sentence of two and a half years.

NCA Deputy Director Andrea Wilson, said: “The NCA worked closely with French authorities to track these men down and ensure they went before the court in France.

“Tragically, we have seen that smuggling people in the back of vehicles and other methods can have lethal consequences.

“We continue our work to tackle the people smugglers who seek to exploit UK borders and treat migrants as a commodity to be profited from, with no regard for their safety.”

Joanne Jakymec, Chief Crown Prosecutor and Head of the CPS International Justice and Organised Crime Division, said: “The Crown Prosecution Service worked closely with the NCA to support this effective prosecution in France, by securing the extradition of the two UK-based defendants and the transfer of evidence to France.”

The NCA investigates the highest harm criminal networks, and currently has around 50 ongoing investigations into networks or individuals in the top tier of organised immigration crime or human trafficking.