Operation Phantom

In February 2010 Europol assisted German Police in arresting five facilitators of illegal immigration, including three main suspects. During the operation, investigators searched 18 premises in Berlin, Brandenburg and Sachsen. Besides evidential material, more than 55 000 euros in cash, several computers, a hand weapon and cocaine were seized. Nine illegal immigrants from Vietnam were found during the house searches.

The investigations, supported by Europol, focused on more than 20 suspects who smuggled illegal immigrants with a 'guarantee' that the immigrants would reach their final destination, even when previous smuggling attempts had failed. The price charged for the entire journey was around 10 000 euros and would take from a few days up to many weeks. The families of the illegal immigrants often would have sold their property or assets to fund the journey.

In some cases the immigrants illegally sold commodities such as cigarettes to finance their onward journey to Western Europe - mainly France and the United Kingdom. According to reports from some of the smuggled immigrants, the UK is considered a dream destination by the Vietnamese as they can readily earn money as gardeners tending and protecting illegal cannabis plantations.

This investigation targeted a criminal network operating across Europe. The Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Slovakia and United Kingdom ran parallel investigations. More than 250 investigators from the German Federal Police and Berlin Police took part in this extensive operation.

Europol experts were present at the operational coordination centre to provide technical expertise and operational analysis support, due to the large quantity of house searches carried out. During the investigation phase, Europol prepared several intelligence reports and facilitated the exchange of intelligence, which also resulted in the discovery of new criminal links.