A car wash owner has been revealed as the leader of a “large-scale” people-smuggling gang.
Tarik Namik - who ran a car wash in Stockport - headed up the organised crime group which became subject of a National Crime Agency (NCA) investigation in 2017.
The 45-year-old operated a sophisticated, lucrative criminal enterprise transporting Kurdish migrants from Iraq and Iran into the UK hidden in the back of lorries, Manchester Crown Court heard.
On Friday, Namik, of Oldham, was jailed along with four other men for a total of nearly 24 years after they pleaded guilty to offences.
Working for Namik were Hajar Ahmed, 39, of Manchester, and Soran Saliy, 32, of Stoke, who would help co-ordinate the UK leg of the operation.
Habil Gider, 54, of Stoke, would act as an escort for some of the migrants once they were in the UK, while Hardi Alizada, 32, of Nottingham, travelled out to Europe to co-ordinate from there.
The gang used complicit lorry drivers usually from Turkey, the court heard.
Recordings found on Namik’s phone suggest that he may have been involved in smuggling at least 1,900 migrants from the Balkans into France or Germany during a 50-day period, charging around €1,800 (£1,548) per migrant.
The group would then offer two separate means of getting to the UK, which would incur extra cost.
The first, ‘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.
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.
Gider was caught red-handed carrying out a trip 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.
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.
Namik failed to attend court for the sentencing hearing.
He was sentenced in his absence and a warrant has now been issued for his arrest.