An organised criminal network, involved in illegally transporting Middle Eastern nationals via Turkey, Greece, France and Belgium into the UK, was dismantled in a joint action day that began in the early hours of this morning. Judicial and law enforcement authorities conducted a successful joint operation in Belgium, France and the UK, supported and coordinated by Eurojust and Europol, which deployed a mobile office to France for on-the-spot intelligence analysis. This coordinated multi-agency approach brought added value to the operation.
An Operational Coordination Centre (OCC) was set up at Eurojust, starting at 06:00 today, run by Eurojust’s French, Belgian and UK Desks, with the assistance of the Eurojust Case Analysis Unit.
Today’s action was conducted by police authorities in France (Border Police PAF), in Belgium (Federal Police of Brussels, Federal Police of Brugge, local police of Vilvoorde, local police of Mons), and in the UK (UK Border Agency), and by judicial authorities in France and Belgium. A total of 36 persons were arrested, 2 European Arrest Warrants were issued, and 45 premises were searched.
The investigation into the organised criminal network began in France in February 2012. It was carried out by the Judicial Police, led by an investigating judge of the Juridictions Interrégionale Spécialisée (JIRS) of Lille. The initial investigation led to further investigations being initiated in Belgium by the Judicial Federal Police and in the UK by the UK Border Agency.
The network, located in France, Belgium and the UK with links into Greece and Turkey as well as into the Netherlands, had a highly sophisticated and complex logistical organisation, with the location of the base of operations shifting from France to Belgium.
The illegal immigrants first paid approximately €2,000 per person to the network via cash or bank transfer to the UK.
The illegal immigrants were collected each night from parking areas in Belgium and France, and put on trucks that transported them to the ferries from Calais to the UK. The organised criminal network is believed to be responsible for attempting to smuggle between 20 and 30 illegal immigrants into the UK each day, with an estimate of 10 people successfully smuggled daily, accounting for approximately 4,000 illegal immigrants per year.
Eurojust supported the successful management of the case by holding two coordination meetings. These meetings were followed by the signing of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) agreement between France and Belgium on 25 October 2012. The UK joined this JIT on 4 February 2013. The JIT was co-funded by Eurojust via the JIT Funding Project.