An Egyptian man suspected of organizing the smuggling of thousands of people aboard “death traps” from North Africa into Italy has been arrested in London, British police said on Thursday.
The 40-year-old man was detained in west London near Heathrow Airport on Wednesday, the National Crime Agency (NCA) said, after an investigation involving Italian police.
The arrest comes after nine Egyptians were arrested in Greece this week in connection with a Mediterranean migrant boat disaster that killed at least 82 people, and possibly hundreds more.
The NCA said the man in London was linked to a number of illegal Mediterranean crossings in the past year, including from Libya, and was working from a UK base with criminal associates.
Three of the crossings required rescues by the Italian coast guard for vessels in distress, each of which was carrying more than 600 people, the UK agency said.
“The type of boats organized crime groups use for crossings are death traps, and sadly many people have died after incidents in the Mediterranean, which demonstrates the level of danger,” senior NCA officer Darren Barr said.
“We will continue to share intelligence and take action with partners to prevent crossings and arrest people smugglers here and overseas,” he said.