World news story

People smuggling ‘ringleader’ arrested in joint UK-Belgian investigation

UK-Belgian cooperation leads to the trial of a key figure in an organised crime gang (OCG) involved in at least 18 people smuggling operations to the UK.


The alleged ringleader of an organised crime group thought to be behind attempts to smuggle migrants into the UK has been arrested by National Crime Agency.

Sudanese national Abdulrahman Omer Saleh, 29, appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday 21 November after the Belgian authorities issued a European Arrest Warrant (EAW).

The arrest was part of a joint UK-Belgian investigation into a Sudanese and Eritrean crime group believed to be smuggling migrants into the UK, often using refrigerated lorries.

Prosecutors in Belgium believe Saleh, has been involved in at least 18 smuggling operations to date, with migrants paying the crime group between €500 and €2,500 per person to enter the UK illegally. A request from the Belgian police led to enquiries by officers from the NCA Project Invigor team. These revealed that Saleh was living in Sheffield, thus resulting in his arrest on 13 November. Saleh had entered the UK illegally in August 2018.

Saleh was remanded in custody. He will next appear via video link on 19 December before a full extradition hearing on 21 December at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

Chris Hogben, NCA lead for Project Invigor, said:

Through our close working with the Belgian Federal Police and prosecutors, Saleh will now face the face the courts in Belgium.

Further information

Project Invigor is an Organised Immigration Crime Taskforce which includes officers from the NCA, Immigration Enforcement, Border Force and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). It works with international partners to target criminal networks behind people smuggling in the Mediterranean and at the UK border.

Published 23 November 2018