A suspected gangland people smuggler was arrested while preparing to send another 70 desperate migrants across the Channel.
Ali Ibrahim, originally from Burundi in Africa but now living in luxury in Holland, was arrested near Dunkirk 48 hours ago suspected of being one of the gangland people smugglers who charge migrants thousands of Euros to get on a boat, MailOnline has learned.
The smugglers drive in inflatable dinghies, outboard engines and lifejackets and bury them in the sand dunes or in some cases rendezvous in the dead of night with groups who gather at specified locations after camping out for days in the dunes.
The 28-year-old was driving his Dutch registered van towards a remote location in a vast area of sand dunes named Dewulf behind a vast beach a few miles along the coast between Dunkirk and Leffrinckoucke.
Gendarmes equipped with drones had been watching the area for days as it had been identified as a regular launching area for migrants crossing the Channel.
Gendarmes found Ibrahim’s van contained two inflatable dinghies eight meters long, jerry cans full of petrol, two outboard engines and seventy lifejackets
Ali Ibrahim, originally from Burundi in Africa but now living in luxury in Holland, was arrested near Dunkirk 48 hours ago suspected of being one of the gangland people smugglers who charge migrants thousands of Euros to get on a boat. Pictured: A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent, yesterday
The sheer danger of making the crossing in overcrowded small boats was underlined just hours after the French police operation — as a 30-year-old African migrant died while attempting to reach the UK.
Appearing in court in Dunkirk yesterday for a fast-track trial — at almost exactly the same time that the tragic fellow African was being loaded into a dinghy together with 37 other migrants — Ibrahim told the judge that ‘a friend from his neighbourhood in Holland, called Rachid and nicknamed “Titanic”‘ who had invested in property, shops and supermarkets had asked him to take the nautical gear directly to Leffrinckouke.
The defendant swore that he had no idea what the gear was to be used for but prosecutors later revealed that his mobile phone records showed he had visited various locations along the north coast of France between Boulogne and Dunkirk and Belgium suggesting he was closely involved in the lucrative smuggling trade.
The alleged deliveries took place at night under cover of darkness.
Text messages on the phone mentioned specific locations on the coast, details about money payments, bank transfers and a message from another smuggler who had subsequently been arrested.
The 28-year-old was driving his Dutch registered van towards a remote location in a vast area of sand dunes named Dewulf behind a vast beach a few miles along the coast between Dunkirk and Leffrinckoucke (pictured)
In court Ali admitted that the seized phone was his but claimed that he had ‘lent it to a friend for several days’ .
‘I was caught in a trap ‘, he told the judge who replied that he didn’t believe him and jailed him for six months as well as banning him from setting foot in France for three years upon his release.
In Dunkirk today prosecutors are still attempting to establish the identity of the ill-fated African who was recovered from the sea unconscious and later died despite being air lifted to hospital in Calais yesterday.
The African’s craft was just one of eight small boats which headed out to sea in rough conditions only to be swamped by waves .
Cross Channel ferries and fishing boats radioed French coastguards after seeing small boats in difficulty and a naval patrol vessel, French and Belgian rescuers and fishing boats saved a total of 164 migrant lives.
The previous day the French saved the lives of 108 migrants.
Kesteloot Daniel poses with the damaged motor of his boat at the marina of Gravelines, near Dunkerque, after it was stolen by migrants
Prosecutors in Dunkirk are understood to be questioning known smugglers already in custody about yesterday’s fateful boat journey.
Last night it emerged that an investigation into manslaughter, placing human life in danger and other charges has been opened by the Dunkirk prosecutor.
People smuggling, a crime considered as lucrative as drug smuggling, has become a major concern for Police in northern France, Belgium and Holland.
Liasing with UK investigators detectives have dismantled over a dozen major smuggling networks , French Interior minister Gerald Darmaning revealed in Calais in July.
Smugglers are highly organised and drive in nautical equipment and vanloads of migrants from as far afield as Germany, Holland and Belgium.
In other cases migrants with limited means who are recruited as helpers and camp out in the dunes between Calais and Dunkirk are loaded directly into boats on the shoreline.
In many cases people smugglers have been reported as launching several boats simultaneously along the coast to confuse Police and coastguard officers.