A man has been charged with being involved in a conspiracy to smuggle 17 men, women and children into the UK in the back of a van


Romanian national Vasile Costache, aged 53, previously of Hounslow in London, was arrested by National Crime Agency officers at Luton airport on Monday 27 September. He was about to board a flight to Bucharest.

His arrest was linked to an operation in June 2019 which saw a British-registered Mercedes van intercepted by Dutch police, who were working with the NCA.

The van had loaded the migrants on board near Breda in the Netherlands, and was travelling towards the Hook of Holland where it was booked on a ferry to Harwich.

Dutch police found 17 people hidden in special wooden compartments and blocked in behind a wall of tyres. The group included five children, aged between five and 14-years-old, and a pregnant woman.

Costache is alleged to have worked with a number of other people to organise the attempt, and was due to travel to Harwich to meet the group when they arrived.

This arrest is a significant moment in a long and complex investigation, and is the final piece in the jigsaw, with all those alleged to be involved now charged.

We are determined to do all we can to dismantle the ruthless criminality behind people smuggling, which brings misery to so many individuals.