The South East Regional Organised Crime Unit (SEROCU), the National Crime Agency, Border Force and French authorities were all involved in the operation at the tail end of last week, with assistance from Hampshire Constabulary’s Marine Unit.
It is said that a vessel left the Isle of Wight on Friday, at around 02:00 in the morning, and travelled south to Cherbourg in France. It is unknown which local port the boat left from.
During the early hours of Saturday morning, as the fishing vessel prepared to leave France for the UK, officers made their move and found 5 migrants, believed to be Albanian nationals, on board.
2 British men and 1 Albanian man were arrested in France and shortly afterwards officers moved in to arrest a 43-year-old man on the Isle of Wight on suspicion of conspiracy to facilitate illegal immigration and money laundering.
Island Echo has been able to confirm that National Crime Agency officers were seen in Ryde on Saturday afternoon at around 13:00. Furthermore, it is thought one of the British men arrested in France lives in Bembridge.
The 43-year-old has since been released on bail, however, the 3 men arrested in France remain in French custody.
Detective Inspector Clair Trueman of SEROCU has said:
“We have worked closely with our counterparts in France and wider UK Law Enforcement partners in order to stop those who attempt to facilitate illegal immigration.
“In this particular case the intention of the organised crime group was to transport a group of illegal migrants into the UK on a small boat.
“These criminals exploit vulnerable people in communities in order to make money without any considerations for their welfare.
“SEROCU will continue to work jointly with the NCA, Border and authorities broad to catch these organised crime groups and protect those at risk from them.”
Martin Matthews, NCA branch operations manager, says:
“These arrests were made as a result of co-operation between the NCA, SEROCU, Border Force and our French partners.
“Working with them we are determined to do all we can to disrupt and dismantle criminal networks involved in immigration crime.
“People smugglers treat migrants as a commodity to be profited from, and are content to put them in situations of extreme danger. That is why this type of crime is a priority for us.”