National operation sees human trafficking, slavery and people smuggling arrests

A Lincoln man was one of six wanted fugitives arrested following a week-long joint operation involving the National Crime Agency’s International Crime Bureau and the police National Extradition Unit (NEU).

The arrests in Huddersfield.
The arrests in Huddersfield.

The week of activity was carried out in conjunction with partners at Interpol and saw NCA and NEU officers work together to track down a number individuals wanted for modern slavery, human trafficking and people smuggling offences in locations across the country.

On Friday July 9, 54-year-old Bulgarian national Vihren Boychev Ignatov was arrested at his home address in Craven Street, Lincoln.

He is wanted by the authorities in Romania, who say he attempted to smuggle six migrants across the border into Bulgaria in the back of a van in September 2020.

The same day, a separate warrant was executed on Calvert Lane in Hull to arrest Lithuanian national Tomas Žemrieta, 37.

He absconded from custody in Lithuania in 2019 after being jailed for four years for being part of an organised crime group who recruited people in Lithuania and trafficked them to the UK for the purposes of labour exploitation.

Ignatov and Žemrieta were arrested in addition to four other wanted fugitive who were arrested at addresses in Wolverhampton, Huddersfield and Coventry.

All those detained have now appeared before Westminster Magistrates Court and are the subject of extradition proceedings.

Head of the NCA’s UK International Crime Bureau, Kathryn Clarke, said: “This operation has seen the NCA work closely with Interpol and police colleagues at the National Extradition Unit to identify, track down and arrest six people wanted for serious offences overseas, living here in the UK.

“They thought they were out of reach but they were wrong, and as result of these arrests the British public are safer.

“But there is an important message to send out here and that is that the UK is not a safe haven for overseas fugitives or people involved in trans-national organised crime.

“We are determined to make sure wanted criminals spend their lives looking over their shoulder, knowing we are actively seeking to arrest them and return them to face justice.”