Three men arrested for 'people-smuggling'

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The Independent Online

Three British men and 23 suspected illegal immigrants were arrested yesterday as part of an international police operation against human trafficking.

Three British men and 23 suspected illegal immigrants were arrested yesterday as part of an international police operation against human trafficking.

The alleged people-smuggling ring is believed to have brought up to 100 economic migrants into Britain from India during the past few years.

Yesterday afternoon a 40-ton articulated lorry was stopped by the German Border Police, who were accompanied by officers from the National Crime Squad, at Essen, in the Rhine & Ruhr area of Germany.

Two British drivers and 21 Indian immigrants were arrested. The Indians, who pay from £6,000 to £10,000 to be brought into this country, were hidden behind exhibition equipment.

Officers from the National Crime Squad also arrested a 35-year-old British-born Asian man in Gateshead, Tyneside, who is believed to be the mastermind. Officers later arrested two suspected illegal workers, Asian men, aged 21 and 24, at an off-licence in Gateshead.

The international operation, code-named Zephaniah, has also seized a large quantity of "bootleg" alcohol and along with a number of what we believe to be false passports and documentation.

Detective Chief Inspector Alan Williams, who is in charge of the operational, said: "This is a miserable trade in human suffering for which many of them and their families get caught up in spiralling debts in order to pay for their passage."

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