SUE REID: How we uncovered migrant smuggling suspect's sanctuary
23rd August 2021

SUE REID: How we uncovered migrant smuggling suspect’s suburban sanctuary

  • Migrant trafficker Rauf Rahimifar lived with his wife Hajar and three children
  • Couple arrived in Denmark in 2016, successfully finding sanctuary after fleeing Sardasht, a war-torn Iranian city on the border with Iraq
  • Rahimifar was arrested in June by Danish police in a midnight raid at family flat and accused of being kingpin, bringing migrants across the Channel to Britain 

In the sleepy cathedral city of Viborg in Denmark, suspected migrant trafficker Rauf Rahimifar enjoyed a quiet life with his devoted wife Hajar and three children.

From their flat on a pristine estate in a leafy suburb, he would attend local Danish classes for asylum seekers, while Hajar biked out in the morning past forests to do the family’s shopping.

The couple had arrived in Denmark in 2016, successfully finding sanctuary after fleeing Sardasht, a war-torn Iranian city on the border with Iraq, in the middle of the biggest wave of migration into Europe since the Second World War.

Rahimifar had been given a helping hand on a refugee integration scheme run by the local McDonald’s cafe, which offered him temporary work. Soon their teenage son was doing well at a Viborg school, and Hajar enjoyed taking their two younger daughters to the nearby play parks.

And that’s how things might have happily stayed. But then, as we shall see, he was convicted as a ‘Peeping Tom’ for spying on a female acquaintance as she undressed in January this year, and given a hefty fine.

In the sleepy cathedral city of Viborg in Denmark, suspected migrant trafficker Rauf Rahimifar (pictured) enjoyed a quiet life with his devoted wife Hajar and three children

Then, on June 23, 37-year-old Rahimifar was suddenly arrested by Danish police in a midnight raid at the family’s flat and accused of being the kingpin in a trafficking racket bringing migrants across the Channel to Britain.

He has also been named by Danish prosecutors as a key player in a tragedy that shocked Britain: the drowning of Iranian-Kurdish toddler Artin and his family after they set off in an overcrowded boat to the UK from Dunkirk, France, last October.

The little boy’s missing body was finally found by a fisherman on New Year’s Day in the seas off Norway.

During the raid, Danish police served Rahimifar with a European arrest warrant calling for his extradition to France to answer allegations in court that he bought boats, then transported them to the beaches of Dunkirk from where hundreds of migrants have crossed the Channel.

He also faces charges in France of human trafficking and the neglectful manslaughter of Artin and his family which carry a sentence of up to ten years.

Rahimifar was discovered in tiny Viborg, which has only 40,000 inhabitants, after a pan-European search by French and British intelligence.

Their hunt for him began before Artin and his family drowned because of French suspicions that he was a central cog in trafficking operations of Channel migrants from northern France.

The search was stepped up last October after the family’s deaths in the Channel and the French issued a warrant for him earlier this year.

He has also been named by Danish prosecutors as a key player in a tragedy that shocked Britain: the drowning of Iranian-Kurdish toddler Artin (pictured) and his family after they set off in an overcrowded boat to the UK from Dunkirk, France, last October

Cannily, Rahimifar reportedly stopped visiting France when he learned of the arrest warrant’s existence so it could not be served on him.

Intelligence sources in Britain and Europe have told the Daily Mail that they feared he was about to flee back to Iran before they pinpointed his home in Europe and caught up with him.

‘We found his precise address in Denmark at the eleventh hour. We believe the morning after the raid he was going to escape by driving in his car via Turkey to his own country,’ added the sources. ‘We had to stop him as we also suspected, once there, he was planning to set up a factory making boats in his home region for specific use in the Channel crossings.’

This week the Mail visited Viborg to piece together the suspected trafficker’s life in Denmark.

At the family’s flat, 32-year-old wife Hajar, dressed casually in a tracksuit and pregnant with their fourth child, emerged at the front door to declare she was standing by her husband despite the seriousness of the trafficking allegations against him.

She said she had married Rahimifar back in Iran when she was just 18. ‘He did not do these things. He is innocent,’ she insisted politely but nervously. She said the claims that he was a trafficker were ‘lies’.

Hajar added that her husband was always at home and had not had time to visit France to organise the trafficking of migrants.

However, the Mail has been told that he wasn’t home on the night of the raid – it was Hajar herself who met Danish police at the door at midnight.

At the family’s flat, 32-year-old wife Hajar (pictured), dressed casually in a tracksuit and pregnant with their fourth child, emerged at the front door to declare she was standing by her husband

Her husband was out late and she had to call him on her mobile phone.

She told him to come back to the flat and, when he did so, the extradition papers were served on him. The truth is that, behind the scenes, things had not gone well for Rahimifar since the family had arrived in Viborg.

His dream of starting anew in Denmark, where he and Hajar were given the right to remain as refugees a year after arriving, had started turning sour.

At the McDonald’s cafe where he worked as part of the refugee programme, staff said he was ‘quiet’, ‘shy’ and a ‘family man’.

A supervisor who knew him well added, however, that McDonald’s bosses turned him down for a permanent job after nearly a year because of his poor command of Danish.

‘We needed someone who could do everything and he couldn’t because of the language difficulties,’ added the supervisor.

Other work colleagues said he had difficulty trying to communicate or mix socially with fellow staff and always walked around the restaurant with his head ‘bowed to the floor’.

Shortly after failing to land a full-time job at McDonald’s in 2019, the 37-year-old turned his hand to running a fruit and vegetable shop in Viborg’s little city centre. His business venture lasted barely six months before being wound up in June last year, according to Denmark’s company registry.

On June 23, 37-year-old Rahimifar was suddenly arrested by Danish police in a midnight raid at the family’s flat and accused of being the kingpin in a trafficking racket bringing migrants across the Channel to Britain. Pictured: Migrants travel in inflatable boat across the Channel in September 2020

The grocery store had received a damning assessment from Danish food health and safety inspectors that same month.

Nearby business owners this weekend said Rahimifar had also run into trouble trying to keep up with paying the rent and bills.

Salah Gharib Ali, a fellow fruit and vegetable store owner who knew Rahimifar, said he had disappeared under the radar in Viborg after the shop failed to flourish.

And there were not just business problems for Rahimifar. He had brushes with the law in the very place that had given him refuge.

The local Viborg court says he has served community service for mishandling someone’s lost property – it is an offence in Denmark not to return the item to the owner.

More seriously, judges had handed him a £580 fine for that sexual harassment ‘Peeping Tom’ offence at the end of July. According to Danish court papers, he was watching the woman as she was undressing at home.

He had been seen at her address when a group of dog walkers shouted at him and he ran off.

Just what his loyal wife made of this unsavoury behaviour we do not know.

But for the moment she is determined that the man she married 14 years ago, and enjoyed a fresh start with in Denmark, is innocent of trafficking human beings across the Channel. 

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