Europol have supported Spanish law enforcement authorities in investigating and arresting five alleged members of a European criminal network active in several countries in Europe and Pakistan. The network was involved in facilitating irregular migration, forging official documents, and labour exploitation.
The investigations, led by the Spanish Guardia Civil, revealed a network that had been active in Spain since 2007, smuggling migrants from Pakistan to Spain and other EU countries. The network maintained connections with public servants in Pakistan in order to arrange the migrants' departure. Once the migrants had arrived in Europe, the network kept them in safe houses and forced them to work in inhumane conditions. After the migrants had paid off their debts to the network, of between EUR 6000 to 15 000, they would apply for residence permits using documents provided by the network. The criminal network threatened migrants and their families who refused to pay, to deter them from reporting to the police.
On 13 February 2015, 150 Guardia Civil officers made five arrests and searched 12 properties in the Spanish regions of Navarra, La Rioja and Pais Vasco y Aragón. A variety of evidence was seized during the searches, which included cash, mobile phones, false passports, computer devices, illegal accounting records of different businesses, and documentation about illegal immigrants.
During the action day, Europol deployed a mobile office to Spain to support the operation with on-the-spot intelligence analysis. Europol also facilitated the exchange of intelligence throughout the investigation, as well as providing analytical support to the investigation.