German and Bulgarian police arrest suspected people smugglers

28 January 2015
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Europol supported German, Bulgarian and Dutch law enforcement authorities yesterday in arresting five alleged members of a pan-European criminal network dealing in illegal immigration, false documents, counterfeit money and drugs.

The international operation Casablanca was initiated by German law enforcement authorities – who arrested four suspects - and supported by Europol plus law enforcement authorities in the Netherlands and Bulgaria, where one other suspect was arrested. More than 250 police officers, including special police units, were involved in the common action day.

German Federal Police in Halle, together with the State Criminal Police of Saxony on behalf of the prosecution in Dresden, launched an investigation in March 2014 into a Bulgarian–Turkish criminal group residing in Saxony. The criminal group was suspected of distributing falsified or forged documents, and of facilitating large scale illegal immigration, mainly into Germany. Investigations revealed that two Turkish nationals were selling forged Polish and Bulgarian documents to a middleman in Saxony, Germany. The documents were sold for EUR 2000; EUR 3500 was requested for counterfeit visas which would facilitate a migrant's entry into the EU. The criminal group is suspected of organising people smuggling via two different routes – through land borders from Turkey to Bulgaria, and by air directly from Turkey to Germany. The irregular migrants were paying an additional EUR 7000 – 8000 for this 'service'.

Police seized a variety of evidence during more than 15 searches of premises, which included forged travel documents, a handgun and ammunition, methamphetamine (crystal), mobile telephones, SIM cards, computers, hard disks, laptops, bank statements and EUR 20 000 in cash.

During the action day, Europol deployed a mobile office to Germany to support the operation with on-the-spot intelligence analysis. Europol, in close cooperation with the Europol Liaison Officers of the involved countries, also facilitated the exchange of intelligence throughout the investigation, as well as hosting and participating in operational meetings, and providing analytical support to the investigation.