People-smuggling kingpin gets nine years in jail over migrant crossing that killed seven people

People-smuggling kingpin gets nine years in jail over migrant crossing that killed seven people including an entire family

A people smuggling kingpin has been jailed over the deaths of seven migrants in the Channel, including a toddler whose body washed up on beach in Norway.

Rauf Perot Rahimifar and three others were convicted of trafficking and manslaughter over the deadly trip from Dunkirk towards England which ended in tragedy when the tiny boat laden with up to 25 migrants capsized.

An entire family was killed, with Rasoul Iran-Nejad and his wife Shiva, both 35, drowning alongside their children Anita, nine, Armin, six, and Artin, 15 months.

Two other migrants also died with the rest, including three children, rescued.

Rauf Perot Rahimifar (pictured) was convicted of trafficking and manslaughter over the deadly trip

Rauf Perot Rahimifar (pictured) was convicted of trafficking and manslaughter over the deadly trip

Rasoul Iran-Nejad, 35 (left), Shiva Mohammad Panahi, 35 (second from left), Anita, nine (centre), and Armin, six (right) all drowned

Rasoul Iran-Nejad, 35 (left), Shiva Mohammad Panahi, 35 (second from left), Anita, nine (centre), and Armin, six (right) all drowned

Artin’s body was not found until months after the October 2020 disaster on a beach in Norway, 600 miles away.

On Friday, the gang’s alleged ringleader Rahimifar, 38, who has a 2021 conviction for voyeurism in Denmark, was found guilty of arranging the fatal trip in Dunkirk’s criminal court.

He had smiled regularly throughout his questioning and claimed to be innocent but was jailed for nine years and fined £60,000.

‘Drowned trying to save his children 

Accomplices Mostafa Kakelahi, 42, and Hoshiar Khezri, got seven and five years respectively plus fines running into the tens of thousands. Shockingly, the trio of Iranian Kurds are said to have continued arranging boat trips across the Channel after the tragedy.

All three were found guilty of charges including manslaughter, deliberately endangering life and running a people-trafficking operation said to have run from France to England from September 2020 until October the next year.

A fourth man, Assalan Ghorbani, an Iranian migrant said to have volunteered to pilot the doomed boat in return for a free passage, was convicted of manslaughter and deliberately endangering life, as well as people-smuggling and joining a criminal conspiracy but only for the night of the tragedy. Ghorbani absconded as soon as he was bailed and was sentenced to two years in prison and fined £17,500 in his absence.

Artin's body was not found until months after the October 2020 disaster on a beach in Norway, 600 miles away

Artin’s body was not found until months after the October 2020 disaster on a beach in Norway, 600 miles away

Mr Iran-Nejad (left) and his wife, Shiva, (right) with two rescue workers in a French migrant camp. The children are seen from left to right: Artin, Anita and Armin

Mr Iran-Nejad (left) and his wife, Shiva, (right) with two rescue workers in a French migrant camp. The children are seen from left to right: Artin, Anita and Armin 

Judge Caroline Vilnat was told the gang had run its boats from between Calais and Dunkirk at the infamous Loon Plage. This was also the launch point for a dinghy that sank in November 2021, killing 27.

Unusually, the craft at the centre of the case was a fishing boat with a cabin. The smugglers put the family of five in the cabin to shelter from the chill winds which meant they were trapped inside as the boat sank. Mr Iran-Nejad got out but drowned after repeatedly diving down in a fruitless bid to save his wife and children.

The Mail revealed Rahimifar, an asylum-seeker, was arrested in Viborg, Denmark, in June 2021 with police saying he was suspected of running hundreds of voyages from France to England.

The case was based on substantial mobile phone evidence with help from British law enforcement and the Danish police and courts.

Rahimifar’s wife Hajar, 33, and their four children are believed to remain in Denmark.

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