Criminal network smuggling migrants into EU busted

Photo by EUROPOL

Over 61 arrested in connection with a network composing mainly Syrian and Turkish nationals who arranged trips for Iraqi migrants from Bagdad to the EU

A large criminal network involved in smuggling migrants via Belarus into the EU was targeted in an operation by the national authorities from Estonia, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. According to a press release from Friday, December 9, the operation was supported by Europol.  

The national authorities targeted suspects in Germany, Lithuania and Poland and implemented joint controls on main roads and harbours in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the report said. Europol also stated that over 61 arrests have been made this year in relation to this case.  

The investigations have revealed that suspects charged between EUR 3 000 and 15 000 per person, with an estimated money flow worth at least EUR 16 million. The criminal network mainly composed of Syrian and Turkish nationals, arranged the entire trip of Iraqi migrants from Bagdad to the EU via diverse smuggling corridors. The migrants recruited in Iraq travelled to Russia via Turkey and then to Belarus before entering the EU through the borders of Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. The final destinations were predominantly Germany and, to a lesser extent, Finland. 

Europol also stated that money was moved around via the Hawala underground financial system and through the use of cryptocurrency.  

This large criminal network, Europol said, is connected to over 100 smuggling incidents. Investigations revealed that the network was divided hierarchically. The majority of the individuals involved in the smuggling operations did not know each other personally.

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