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National Crime Agency (NCA) officers swooped on a suspected people smuggling operation in South Mimms on Tuesday (30 March).

The agency said it moved in as part of an investigation into organised immigration crime and after NCA officers witnessed a Romanian registered lorry being broken into at the Hertfordshire services in the early hours of the morning.

A 38-year-old man was detained on suspicion of facilitating illegal immigration and is now being questioned.

The NCA said four other men, three Bangladeshi and one Indian national, were removed from the lorry by police and arrested on suspicion of immigration offences.

They will be dealt with by the immigration authorities.

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NCA investigators believe they would have attempted to leave the UK in the lorry, without the driver being aware.

Ian Truby, NCA branch operations manager, said: “People smuggling networks operate in both directions across the UK border, with the same organised crime groups often involved in bringing migrants in and moving them out.

“This poses an obvious threat to the security of both the UK and our neighbours.

“Those being moved out of the UK in this way may be in the country illegally, they could be trying to evade law enforcement, or they might be being trafficked against their will.”

Transport lawyers Smith Bowyer Clarke said it was currently dealing with 10 cases per week where hauliers were seeking legal advice after receiving fines for having stowaways inside their vehicles.