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‘Scorpion’, Europe’s most wanted people smuggler, found ‘looking like rich golfer’

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Majeed and his gang controlled much of the trade, shipping migrants to the UK from Europe by boat and lorries. Police inspect the mobile phones of migrants they arrest, and from 2016, the same name – Scorpion – kept cropping up.

Officers eventually realised that Scorpion was Kurdish-Iraqi Majeed. He had illegally entered the UK in the back of a lorry in 2006 and was deported to Iraq in 2015 after serving prison sentences for drug and gun offences.

Shortly afterwards, he inherited his elder brother’s people-smuggling operation after his sibling was jailed in Belgium. Later, 26 members of the gang would be convicted in UK, French and Belgian courts after a two-year police operation, but Majeed evaded capture.

A Belgian court convicted him of 121 counts of people smuggling in his absence. He was sentenced to a decade in jail and fined £834,000 in October 2022.

Sue Mitchell, a BBC journalist, and Rob Lawrie, a volunteer aid worker, traced him first to Turkey, where they learnt he was involved in smuggling migrants to Greece and Italy, and then to Sulaymaniyah, a city in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

By now the gang boss knew he was on their trail and, astonishingly, agreed to meet them.

“Barzan Majeed looked like an affluent golfer. He was smartly dressed, in new jeans, a light-blue shirt and a black gilet,” Mitchell wrote for the BBC. “When he put his hands on the table, I saw his fingernails were manicured.”

Ann Lukowiak, a public prosecutor in Belgium, said she hoped he would be extradited one day, adding: “It’s important to us to have sent the signal that you can’t do what you want. We will eventually take him down.”

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