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People smuggling suspect extradited back to UK to face trial

A Romanian man who was wanted by the National Crime Agency after failing to show up at court has been arrested and extradited back to the UK to face trial.

Vasile Costache, aged 54, previously of Hounslow in London, was initially detained by the NCA in September 2021 in connection with a conspiracy to smuggle 17 men, women and children into the UK in the back of a van.

It followed an operation in June 2019 which saw a British-registered Mercedes van intercepted by Dutch police, who were working with the NCA.

A group of Afghan migrants had been loaded on board near Breda in the Netherlands, and the vehicle was travelling towards the Hook of Holland to get a ferry to the UK when it was stopped.

Costache, who also uses the name Vasile Matei, is alleged to have worked with a number of other people to organise the attempt.

He was charged with conspiring to facilitate illegal immigration and granted bail, but he failed to turn up to a court hearing in Croydon in June this year, so a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Last month Costache was located and detained by Romanian police in the town of Ploiesti, north of Bucharest, where he lived.

He was returned back to the UK on Monday 14 November and appeared before Westminster Magistrates yesterday, where he was remanded in custody to appear before Croydon Crown Court on 25 November.

NCA senior investigating officer Chris Hill said:

“Once again the NCA has been able to demonstrate our international reach.

“Through working with partners in Romania we were able to locate Costache and ensure his return to the UK to face the courts.”

Costache is one of 16 people due to stand trial in January 2023, following a wider NCA investigation into money laundering and organised immigration crime. Two other individuals have pleaded guilty.

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