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German court set migrant kingpin free under EU human rights laws


The alleged kingpin suspected of masterminding the illegal boat journeys of 10,000 migrants across the Channel to Britain has been lost by police in Germany.

The suspect, named only as Dirk P in court papers, was discovered by armed police hiding in a hayloft at his farm in Lotte, Germany, as they targeted a gang alleged to be running the migrant flotilla from the French coast.

The 41-year-old was arrested in March — but has vanished thanks to European Union human rights laws.

It emerged this week that the German authorities were forced to free him when a court halted his extradition to Belgium for questioning over human smuggling offences.

Lawyers used a loophole in EU laws to win him freedom at the June hearing, arguing that because Belgian prisons are overcrowded, a 'persecuted person' extradited there may face a 'violation' of his human rights.

Released from remand, Dirk has now disappeared.

'We have no longer any legal way of monitoring his whereabouts,' a spokesman for the attorney general's office covering Lotte in Germany said this week.

'He is at large now.' That means he will be missing from a trial of 21 suspects, including some based in Britain, accused of 'criminal involvement' in human trafficking across the Channel, set to begin in Bruges on Monday. The case against him will be heard in his absence.

Belgian authorities say they have lined up 'leaders, decision-makers and facilitators' accused of running the massive illegal boat operations during the past two years.

Dirk P, a farmer and maritime equipment salesman, has been described by police as 'the most important logistician' of a Channel smuggling ring, which delivered vessels, outboard motors and lifejackets to French beaches for migrant crossings.

He was first quizzed by police during an initial raid at his farm last year, but denied having any involvement in trafficking, saying he was an innocent businessman.

The operation, involving agents from Britain's National Crime Agency and European police forces, discovered the farm was storing more than 50 inflatable boats, outboard engines, 920 lifejackets, three 'live' handguns and thousands of euros in cash.

Jacques Beer, the NCA's deputy director of operations, said it had found one of the 'most significant and prolific crime groups involved in supplying small boats and moving migrants across the Channel'.

The gang connected to Dirk P's farm is believed to have smuggled in 10,000 people over 18 months, charging each up to 5,000 euros (£4,231), and accounting for a quarter of all migrants making the crossing in that time.

Suspected traffickers linked to the property were later arrested in the UK, across Germany and western Europe. Those rounded up included Iranian Hewa Rahimpur, 29, who was found in Britain and extradited to Belgium ahead of the trial.

Suspicion fell on Dirk P as the gang's logistical mastermind after the mobile phone messages of those who'd been arrested were forensically examined.

'We believe this German to be a key figure in this smugglers' network of mainly Iraqi Kurds,' police have since said.

Police pictures of the first raid on Dirk P's farm show boats stamped with the trade name Intex, which traces them to a manufacturer in China.

They are thought to have been bought online and transported to Germany via Turkey.