A man has been jailed in France following an investigation by the National Crime Agency and French authorities into an a organised crime group suspected of using pleasure boats to smuggle migrants across the Channel.

British and French investigators were able to link the group to two separate vessels, one of which was involved in a smuggling run which saw 11 migrants brought ashore in Rye, East Sussex, in February 2022.

Yacht ‘Moon’ Image NCA

NCA officers would later arrest a 36-year-old Iraqi national in Barnet, north London, in connection with that incident. He was bailed pending further enquiries as the investigation continues.

The second yacht, the Lady Ann, was identified as being located in Belgium and travelled from there to Boulogne-sur-mer.

The vessel’s controller, 43-year-old Georgian national Igor Romanovi, was arrested by French police with the boat at Boulogne marina on 1 June 2022.

He was prosecuted for people smuggling offences and on 26th June 2023 a court in Dieppe sentenced him to four years in prison. He will also be banned from French territory after serving his sentence.

Tom Outhwaite, regional manager for NCA International, said: “Tackling people smuggling is a priority for the NCA and we are working closely with our partners in France, Belgium and beyond to target the organised criminals involved on both sides of the Channel.

“Together we are determined to do all we can to disrupt and dismantle these exploitative networks. Our investigation into the UK side of this crime group continues.”

The NCA investigation has been supported by the authorities in France and Belgium, as well as Sussex Police, Border Force, Immigration Enforcement and the Crown Prosecution Service.

By Ed

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