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Europe's Top Migrant-Smuggler Nabbed: Inside the Hunt for Most Wanted Trafficker

Photo : National Crime Agency

In a bustling shopping mall in Iraq, a covert encounter unfolds: face-to-face with Barzan Majeed, Europe's elusive kingpin of human trafficking. Majeed, sought by authorities across borders, including the UK, reveals the vast scale of his operations without flinching. His admission, nonchalant yet chilling, offers a glimpse into the murky underworld of migrant smuggling.

Majeed's confession, uttered amidst casual conversation, paints a grim picture of uncertainty - he cannot ascertain the tally of migrants he's ferried across the perilous English Channel. "Maybe a thousand, maybe 10,000. I don't know, I didn't count," he shrugs, embodying the callous indifference of a man accustomed to exploiting desperation for profit.

This clandestine rendezvous marks the culmination of a painstaking quest initiated by Sue Mitchell and Rob Lawrie, spurred by a chance encounter with a near-fatally adrift young girl in a migrant camp near Calais. Their pursuit of the elusive figure dubbed "Scorpion" takes them through a labyrinth of clandestine networks, intricate as they are treacherous.

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The alias "Scorpion" finds its roots in the annals of crime, tracing back to Majeed's Kurdish Iraqi origins. A journey that commenced with his own clandestine passage into England, metamorphosed into a lucrative enterprise of human exploitation. Following his deportation from the UK in 2015, Majeed ascended to the helm of a transcontinental trafficking syndicate, orchestrating the perilous journeys of countless migrants.

The trail of Scorpion winds through Europe's corridors of power, leaving in its wake a string of convictions, yet the elusive mastermind remains beyond the reach of justice. Belgium's courts render judgment in absentia, sentencing Majeed to a decade behind bars and a hefty fine. But the fugitive's whereabouts remain an enigma, an unsolved puzzle tantalizingly close yet maddeningly out of reach.

As Mitchell and Lawrie delve deeper, navigating the shadowy underworld of human trafficking, their pursuit leads them to the heart of Turkey's bustling streets. Istanbul's cafes, whispered to be haunts of smugglers, offer fleeting glimpses of their quarry. But danger lurks in the shadows, a stark reminder of the risks inherent in their pursuit of truth.

Their quest takes them across continents, from the sun-drenched shores of Marmaris to the bustling thoroughfares of Sulaymaniyah, each step inching closer to the elusive Scorpion. A chance encounter in a nondescript coffee shop brings them face-to-face with the elusive figure, his demeanor betraying little of the menace that lurks beneath the surface.

Majeed's denials, though vehement, fail to dispel the chilling reality of his crimes. His protestations of innocence ring hollow against the backdrop of shattered lives and dashed dreams. Yet, in his eyes, he sees only the facade of a businessman, a mere cog in the wheel of a larger enterprise.

As Mitchell and Lawrie peel back the layers of deception, they uncover a web of corruption stretching from Baghdad to Brussels. Passport numbers scribbled on a mobile phone screen offer a glimpse into the intricacies of Majeed's operation, a sinister reminder of the human cost of his greed.

Their journey, fraught with danger and deception, serves as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity. Yet, as they inch closer to their elusive quarry, they realize that the pursuit of justice is a marathon, not a sprint.

Their discoveries, meticulously documented and shared with authorities on both sides of the Channel, offer a glimmer of hope in the fight against human trafficking. Ann Lukowiak, a prosecutor in Belgium, remains steadfast in her pursuit of justice, her resolve unshaken by the passage of time.

For Mitchell and Lawrie, their quest for truth may have ended, but the fight against human trafficking continues unabated. As long as there are those who seek to exploit the vulnerable for profit, their voices will serve as a beacon of hope in the darkness, a reminder that justice, though elusive, is never beyond reach.

May 10, 2024 4:52 p.m. 468

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