A manhunt has been launched to find a top people-smuggler known as “Scorpion.”
Barzan Kamal Majeed is nicknamed as “Scorpion” after his WhatsApp avatar and investigators are searching for him on both sides of the channel.
Last month in Bruges the 36-year-old formerly from Nottingham was sentenced to 10 years in prison and fined 968,000 Euros for people smuggling offences.
The Belgian prosecution came after a joint investigation involving the National Crime Agency (NCA), Belgian, and French law enforcement revealed the organised crime gangs used small boats, lorries and shipping containers to help people cross.
The investigation included 31 attempts to smuggle migrants into the UK between July 2018 and November 2019.
Many of the migrants stopped by immigration officers had the Iraqi national’s number saved in their phones under the name “Scorpion.”
An investigation has been launched by the NCA to find him.
His fellow crime group member Nzar Jabar Mohamad, 35, was sentenced in the UK last year.
Mohamed admitted to attempting to bring 21 migrants to the UK using lorries and small boats and was jailed for 10 years at Hull Crown Court last October.
He claimed he also helped hundreds of women flee to the UK using the same method.
Belgian authorities charged a further 23 people this year, including three who were arrested in the UK by the NCA and extradited to Belgium.
During the same hearing as “Scorpion”, 17 people were convicted and jailed for a total of 32 years and six were given suspended prison sentences.
Mohamed was handed an additional two-year sentence and a 272,000 Euro fine by the Belgian court.
In 2013 Majeed moved to the UK and lived in the Hucknall area of Nottingham where he is understood to still have connections.
In 2015 he was deported from the UK to the Kurdistan region of Northern Iraq.
Since then he has continued to people smuggle in Belgium.
The UK arrest warrant has been published because of Majeed’s historic connections to Nottingham but the crimes he has been prosecuted for have all been in Belgium.
It is likely Majeed used his knowledge and resources as a people smuggler to return to Europe from Iraq and continue his criminal activity.
A NCA spokesperson said they strongly suspect he is currently in northern Iraq.
They said: “Mohamad was essentially the UK leg of the gang and Majeed was at the other end operating in Belgium and on the continent.
“The strong suspicion is he may well be in a region of northern Iraq.
“But he still has family connections in the Nottingham area so there may be some people in the UK who have knowledge of his whereabouts which is why we’ve issued the appeal.
“He was deported from the UK to Iraq but he has managed to commit crimes in Belgium.
“We don’t know what his immigration status is in Belgium but we imagine it is more than likely he was there illegally.
“At the end of the day the guy is a people smuggler so it fairly self-evident he is adept at moving people across borders in a clandestine way, though we don’t actually know for certain that this is how he arrived in Belgium.”
NCA branch commander Martin Clarke said Majeed and Mohamad’s two cases demonstrated the need for countries to work together to tackle international criminal networks.
He said: “These convictions represent the destruction of the UK and international arms of this organised crime group, which preyed on the desperation of migrants seeking to cross the channel.
“The information we gathered following Mohamad’s arrest was crucial to the success of the Belgian investigation.
“It shows that organised immigration crime networks usually cross international boundaries, meaning international cooperation is essential to tackling them.
“I would appeal to anyone, anywhere, who has information about where Barzan Kamal Majeed might be to contact us or the Belgian authorities immediately.
“Although he was sentenced in his absence, true justice will only be achieved when he is back on Belgian soil to serve his jail term.”