UK crime officers begin bid to track down migrant smuggling boss nicknamed 'Scorpion'
Iraqi national Barzan Kamal Majeed was sentenced to 10 years in prison for people smuggling offences in his absence at court last month
UK crime investigators are working with Belgian authorities to track down the head of an organised crime group that attempted to smuggle more than 100 migrants to the UK in small boats and lorries.
Iraqi national Barzan Kamal Majeed, nicknamed “Scorpion” after his WhatsApp avatar, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for people smuggling offences in his absence at a court in Bruges last month.
The 36-year-old, formerly of Nottingham, was also fined 968,000 Euros.
A warrant has been issued for his arrest, and investigators on both sides of the channel are now appealing for information about his whereabouts.
Majeed moved to the UK in 2013 and lived in the Hucknall area of Nottingham, where he is understood to still have connections.
He was deported from the UK in 2015 to the Kurdistan region of Northern Iraq.
The Belgian prosecution followed a joint investigation involving the UK National Crime Agency, Belgian, Dutch and French law enforcement into 31 separate attempts to smuggle migrants into the UK between July 2018 and November 2019 using small boats, lorries and shipping containers.
Many of the migrants had Majeed’s number stored in their mobile phone under the name “Scorpion”.
The investigation had already resulted in the UK conviction of fellow crime group member Nzar Jabar Mohamad, 35, last year.
Mohamad was jailed for 10 years at Hull Crown Court in October 2021 after admitting attempting to bring 21 migrants to the UK using lorries and small boats.
He also boasted of smuggling hundreds of women using the same method.
A further 23 people were charged by the Belgian authorities this year, including three who were arrested in the UK by the NCA and extradited to Belgium.
Seventeen were convicted and jailed for a total of 32 years during the same hearing as Majeed’s. Six were given suspended prison sentences.
Mohamad was also given an additional two-year sentence and fined 272,000 Euros by the Belgian court.
NCA Branch Commander Martin Clarke 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.”
40,000 people have crossed the English Channel in small boats so far this year.
That compares to 28,526 who crossed in the whole of last year.
Poor weather conditions have prevented any crossings for over a week, but UK authorities are braced for a further influx over the next few weeks as crime gangs continue to profit from the movement of migrants across the Channel.
The record arrivals are continuing to put huge strain on the UK asylum system, including at the Manston migrant processing centre in Kent, which has seen serious overcrowding.
At one point nearly 4,000 Channel migrants were being housed at the centre.
But numbers are now understood to have fallen below 1,600 after ministers ordered more hotel accommodation to be made available to ease the problem.