Five Indian nationals are among 10 people arrested by the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) as part an investigation into an international drugs, illegal immigration and money laundering operation.

The 10 suspects, who also include British and French nationals, are believed to be part of an organised crime group which is suspected of having flown an estimated £15.5 million out of the UK to Dubai hidden in suitcases.

The group, which includes Indian nationals aged between 28 and 44 arrested from London in raids on Wednesday, are also under investigation for trying to smuggle 17 migrants into the country earlier this year.

“Cash is the lifeblood of organised crime groups and they need the services of money launderers. We believe that the action we and our partners have taken will have caused permanent damage to a well-established money laundering network,” said Chris Hill, NCA senior investigating officer.

“We are determined to do all we can to target illicit financial flows and hit organised criminal networks where it hurts – in the pocket,” he said.

The suspects are alleged to have been part of a “well-orchestrated” conspiracy to launder millions of pounds of money made through illegal Class A drugs and organised immigration crime, transferring it from the UK to Dubai over the last three years.

Examinations of their travel history suggests the group transported more than £14 million in 2017 and 2018 alone, the NCA notes.

A 41-year-old Indian national is alleged to be the head of the network and was arrested at his home in Hayes, west London. NCA officers recovered a quantity of cash, illegal drugs and luxury cars, including Range Rovers, Audi Q7s and BMW 5 series, during raids in Hounslow, Hayes, Uxbridge and Southall across south-west London.

The raids follow an NCA investigation, supported by Scotland Yard, into cash seizures totalling more than £1.5 million made by Border Force officers over the course of 2019. In all cases the cash was being transported between UK airports and ports and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Ben Russell, Deputy Director of the National Economic Crime Centre, said: “The National Economic Crime Centre (NECC) was able to assist the case team in arranging forensic analysis of seized bank notes. We were also able to use our relationships with our international partners in the UAE to obtain evidence in relation to this case.

“The NECC has a unique role in coordinating the response to cash smuggling with other national and international law enforcement partners. Working together, our aim is to arrest and disrupt the criminals who carry out this type of activity. Our joined up approach within UK law enforcement and across the globe helps bring more people to justice.”