20 July 2017
A Palestinian man suspected of heading an organised crime group that smuggled around 100 Syrian migrants a day into western Europe has been extradited to Greece.
Jamal Owda, aged 28, lost his appeal against extradition in May but could not be removed due to an asylum claim which has now been rejected.
Owda, who was apprehended by National Crime Agency officers on a European Arrest Warrant in December 2015 at an asylum seekers’ shelter in Liverpool, was handed over to the Greek authorities on Tuesday.
He was taken from Athens to Thessaloniki yesterday where he will remain in custody until his trial. No date has been set yet.
Owda was one of 23 people arrested across Europe as part multi-agency operation led by the Hellenic Police.
Fifteen members of the crime group have already received sentences totalling 155 years and €600,000 in fines.
The Greek authorities believe the crime group, which had its headquarters in Greece, could have earned nearly €10 million since 2013 by charging migrants for transportation, forged travel documents and housing.
Chris Hogben, from the NCA, who is Deputy Head of the UK’s Organised Immigration Crime Taskforce, said:
“Jamal Owda is the suspected head of a crime group responsible for smuggling hundreds of migrants a day from Greece into western Europe. After losing his battle to remain in the UK, our officers handed him over to the Hellenic Police.
“The taskforce works with agencies in the UK and overseas to pursue, disrupt and prosecute anyone that preys on vulnerable people in order to line their own pockets.”
The NCA-led taskforce, called Project Invigor, targets criminal networks behind people smuggling in the Mediterranean and at the UK border. The taskforce is primarily made up of officers from the NCA, Immigration Enforcement, Border Force, Crown Prosecution Service and the police.