Chinese network of people smugglers dismantled with Europol’s support

12 October 2015
Press Release
Press Release/News

Eighty-nine arrests have been made in a coordinated operation led by the Spanish National Police and supported by Europol. Operation 'TIJA' targeted a Chinese organised crime group specialised in smuggling people into Spain, as a transit country on the way to the UK, Ireland, Canada and the United States of America by using forged identity documents or travel documents belonging to someone else.

Four property searches were carried out simultaneously in Barcelona. During the searches, 116 forged passports, 9 mobile phones, 71 SIM cards, 3 laptops, 4 tablet computers, 4 external hard drives and EUR 4000 were found and seized.

The investigation was initiated in June 2013, after several Chinese citizens had attempted to enter Spain by using forged passports or passports that belonged to other individuals. The documents found were from China, Hong Kong, Japan, Macao, Malaysia, Portugal, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan.

After a preliminary investigation, Spanish law enforcement officers uncovered a very active organised group of Chinese and Pakistani criminals based in Barcelona. Having first smuggled the migrants into Spain, the facilitators lodged them in safe houses until the next stage of the journey was arranged (booking the flight, receiving the travel documents from China). Once in Spain, the migrants were provided with various options to illegally enter their favoured destination country: land routes through Turkey and Greece, direct or indirect flights, and ferries.

The average cost of the journey was EUR 20 000. The migrants had to pay half up front before starting the journey, and the remaining half after arriving at the destination. If the migrants failed to pay the fee, the criminals would keep their genuine travel documents and would extort their families in China.

This investigation was supported by the RALON (Home Office Immigration Enforcement's Risk and Liaison Overseas Network) British Office in Madrid, and the French OCRIEST (Office Central pour la Répression de l'Immigration irrégulière et de l'emploi d'Etrangers Sans Titre).

To support this important operation, the Europol mobile office was deployed, giving real-time support with simultaneous cross-matching against its databases and tailored intelligence analysis based on the investigators' needs.