Six people have been arrested by judicial authorities and police officers in France, Greece, Belgium and the UK. The operation, codenamed Operation Pakoul (from the name of a traditional hat worn in Afghanistan) is the result of nearly one year of international police and judicial cooperation against a people-smuggling network.
French National Police, Hellenic Police, Belgium Federal Police and the UK’s Border Agency ran a joint operation against a criminal network smuggling illegal migrants from Afghanistan to Europe. The migrants paid on average 10.000 Euros to be transported via Turkey, Greece and France to the UK, or from France via Germany to Scandinavia. The smuggling ring, consisting mainly of Afghan nationals, also employed Kurdish and Lithuanian facilitators.
It is estimated that the main organiser in Greece smuggled between 120 and 160 migrants per week, into various EU countries. Investigators assume that, during the last 10 months, he facilitated approximately 5000 migrants, earning around 18 million Euros. This criminal is considered to be one of the most prolific facilitators of illegal immigration in Europe.
The investigation was carried out by the French Police (Police aux Frontières) and the judicial authority in Lille (Juridiction interrégionale spécialisée). Once many links with other Member States were discovered, investigators from Greece, Belgium, Germany and the UK collaborated on the case. Eurojust and Europol provided tailored analytical support to the investigators and hosted several meetings. Good working relationships with both the French investigating judge and the various investigative teams resulted in very successful joint efforts in this operation.
The action began on the morning of 14 February 2012 at 07:00 (Central European Time) with several arrests. During the simultaneous operation, two suspects were arrested and interviewed in France, one in Greece (the main organiser of the network), two in Belgium and one in the UK. A large number of searches were conducted at the residences of the main suspects at various locations.
To support the simultaneous arrests and house searches in the four Member States involved, Eurojust set up a judicial Coordination Centre in The Hague. Two Europol Mobile Offices were deployed in Lille and Athens to provide live support during the operation. Both Eurojust and Europol will continue to follow the developments of the related investigations to analyse the results of the operation and ensure the best outcome at judicial level.