ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Thirteen members of a Kurdish-led gang found guilty of trafficking people from the Kurdistan Region and Iraq into the UK have received sentences of up to ten years, announced British law enforcement officials on Wednesday.
“A two-year investigation, led by detectives from the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit (SEROCU), uncovered the network which specialised in facilitating the illegal movement of people,” leading to multiple successful prosecutions against those participating, read a statement. Charges included conspiracy to assist in unlawful immigration, money laundering, and perverting the course of justice.
“They targeted the Kurdish community and looked to make as much profit out of every individual they could exploit. Their only concern was their profit margins,” said the crime unit.
The gang’s ringleaders were 33-year-old Alan Hoger and 34-year-old Goran Ahmed. Both are originally from the Kurdistan Region but have lived in East Sussex for years.
“Hoger had boasted of being a millionaire to his friends, as he laundered his profits from the organised crime group with help from his wife – through legitimate companies – back to the Kurdistan Region.”
Hoger was sentenced to 10 years in prison and Ahmed was handed an eight-year sentence.
Other defendants found guilty of involvement in the scheme include 30-year-old Mohammed Rasul, 34-year-old Neyaz Hamasaid, 27-year-old Arie Ali, 46-year-old Bakhtyar Mohammed, 34-year-old Alan Salam, 36-year-old Susan Mohammed, 36-yar-old Kaiwan Ali, and 37-year-old Ari Ako.
“This gang took advantage of their links to the Middle East to exploit vulnerable people for financial gain, with no concern about putting their lives in danger,” and “set up an elaborate network of contacts to facilitate their work,” continued the statement.
Instances of people from the Kurdistan Region and Iraq attempting to leave the war-torn country and immigrate to Europe through illegal smuggling routes are commonplace. Their numbers dramatically increased in 2014 after the emergence of the Islamic State.
Turkey, Greece, and Bulgaria are common stops for traffickers and migrants traveling through Eastern and Central Europe to the wealthier Western nations. Turkey is the main point of passage Kurdish and Iraqi migrants use to enter Europe.