The head of a Kurdish people-smuggling ring has been arrested after going on the run before his sentencing, the National Crime Agency (NCA) said.

Tarik Namik, 45, from Oldham, failed to show up at Manchester crown court and was given an eight-year jail term in his absence on 9 December.

Police had issued a warrant for his arrest after his no-show at Manchester crown court last month, when he was convicted of heading a “sophisticated, lucrative criminal enterprise” smuggling Kurdish migrants.

Four other members of his gang were sentenced alongside him, according to the NCA.

The four other men – based in Manchester, Stoke-on-Trent and Nottingham – received sentences ranging from 16 months to nearly five years for their role in the criminal scheme.

All five had admitted the charges against them at previous hearings. Namik previously pleaded guilty to a count of conspiring to help asylum seekers enter the UK, while the others pleaded guilty to helping asylum seekers to enter the country.

The agency said the court had previously heard how Namik became the subject of an NCA investigation in 2017, and headed an organised crime group involved in transporting migrants from Iraq and Iran to the UK hidden in the back of lorries.

A warrant was issued for Namik’s arrest after he failed to attend court and he was detained as he arrived at Manchester airport on a flight from Istanbul on Friday.

The NCA said he was due to appear at Manchester magistrates court on Saturday and is likely to return to the crown court on Monday to be formally sentenced.

The NCA’s branch commander, Richard Harrison, said: “Namik was a prolific people smuggler whose crime group put vulnerable migrants at great risk while he reaped the profits.

“I’m delighted that he will now face justice for the offences he committed.

“Fugitives never come off our radar, and I’d like to thank our colleagues at Greater Manchester police for their assistance in ensuring he was detained quickly the moment he set foot back in the UK.”

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