Europe’s most wanted human trafficker, ‘The Scorpion’, arrested in Iraqi Kurdistan

Kurdish security forces said that The Scorpion’s arrest was under a warrant issued by the Kurdistan region’s judiciary following a request by Interpol.

Security authorities in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq announced that they made a significant breakthrough with the arrest of one of Europe’s most sought-after human traffickers. Barzan Majeed, famously known as “The Scorpion,” was apprehended in Sulaymaniyah city on Monday following an Interpol request and a meticulous exchange of intelligence information.

Majeed’s capture comes after he attempted to smuggle thousands of migrants into Britain, utilising small boats and trucks. His arrest was as per an arrest warrant by the Kurdistan region’s judiciary, and after a request from Interpol, the region’s security apparatus said it in a statement sent to The New Arab.

The statement clarifies that he is now under investigation as per article five of Iraq’s anti-trafficking law number 28 for the year 2012,

Majeed’s capture also came following a BBC investigation during which they shared the discoveries with authorities in both the UK and Europe, including their face-to-face- interview with Majeed at a small mall in Sulaimaniyah.

BBC also reported that the interview with Majeed “was secretly filmed by their driver”.

In the interview published on Saturday, Majeed admitted that he had transported “thousands” across the English Channel; however, he denied he was “a big player at the top of a criminal organisation” of human trafficking into Europe.

TNA contacted the spokesperson for the region’s security apparatus in Sulaimaniyah, but the official was not immediately available to comment.

A Kurdish lawyer, speaking to TNA on condition of anonymity, emphasised that the extradition of Majeed if requested by European countries, falls under the exclusive authority of Iraq’s judiciary. However, the lawyer clarified that Kurdish authorities have previously extradited individuals to European countries without involving federal authorities in Baghdad.

"Sue and Rob's meeting with Scorpion was secretly filmed by their driver"

If the driver was from Kurdistan, then there are serious ethical questions for @BBCWorld about the safety of the driver given how dangerous the Scorpion is according to British and Belgian officials https://t.co/jDuUyYlerN pic.twitter.com/zyaYuTpFQW — Fazel Hawramy (@FazelHawramy) May 10, 2024

Last year, Majeed was reportedly arrested in the Kurdistan region’s Zakho district of Duhok province. Belgium had requested his extradition, but Iraqi authorities declined the request, according to information obtained by TNA from a reliable source.

While many Kurdish social media users praised the arrest of Majeed, it is noteworthy that hundreds expressed discontent and anger, considering him a “hero” for facilitating the departure of thousands of Kurds from what they perceive as the challenges of living in the Kurdistan region.

Article 1 of the law defines human trafficking as “[the recruitment, transportation, harbouring, or receipt of individuals using force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power, or financial incentives. This includes obtaining consent from individuals with authority or guardianship over others, with the intention to sell or exploit them in various ways, such as prostitution, sexual exploitation, forced labour, slavery, begging, trafficking in human organs, or medical experimentation.”

Article 5 of the law also imposes penalties for human trafficking, including imprisonment and fines.

“Those who commit acts outlined in Article 1 face temporary imprisonment and fines ranging from 5,000,000 to 10,000,000 dinars. Additionally, individuals engaged in trafficking using coercion, fraud, or financial incentives may face imprisonment up to 15 years and fines not exceeding 10,000,000 dinars.”

Despite the region’s relative prosperity and stability compared to other parts of the country, persistent issues like high unemployment rates and corruption drive thousands of Kurdish youth to undertake the perilous journey to seek better opportunities in European countries.

The severity of the situation was underscored in November 2021 when 16 Iraqi Kurds were among a group of 27 individuals who tragically perished while attempting to cross the dangerous waters of the English Channel.

The increase in migrants crossing the English Channel via small boats in recent years underscores the dire circumstances faced by refugees fleeing war and economic hardships. These individuals, often paying exorbitant sums to smugglers, seek refuge and a better life in Britain.

Following his arrest, Majeed was transferred to the justice administration in the Kurdistan Region. Britain’s National Crime Agency confirmed Majeed’s apprehension via its official X account. The Crime Agency had previously issued a plea for assistance in locating Majeed in 2022 after he was convicted in absentia in Belgium for his involvement in human trafficking crimes, following a collaborative investigation between London and Brussels.

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