Fourteen members of a Pakistani organised crime group (OCG), suspected of smuggling irregular migrants into the European Union, have been arrested in a joint operation by French, Portuguese and Spanish law enforcement authorities, supported by Eurojust and Europol.
In simultaneous actions on 13 and 14 December, judicial and law enforcement authorities conducted the successful operation in France and Portugal, supported and coordinated by Eurojust and Europol. More than 100 field officers were involved in the action day. In some situations, French police officers were operating in Portugal and a Portuguese police officer was operating in France.
Authorities from France’s L’Office Central pour la Répression de l’Immigration irrégulière et de l’Emploi d’étrangers Sans Titre(OCRIEST), with the Brigade mobile de Recherche of Bordeaux andHendaye, and Portugal’s Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteirasarrested 14 members of the OCG (seven in France and seven in Portugal) and searched 21 properties and automobiles in France and Portugal. Spain also carried out operational measures during the common action.
Laptops, mobile telephones, SIM cards, nine automobiles, money transfer receipts equivalent in value to more than EUR 20 000, and more than EUR 30 000 in cash, plus passports and residence permits, were seized.
French and Portuguese authorities, led by Mr Jean-Michel Gentil, an Investigating Judge of the Juridictions Interrégionale Spécialisée(JIRS) of Bordeaux, and Mrs Sofia Rocha, a Public Prosecutor in Lisbon, began parallel investigations in 2012 into the OCG, which was involved in illegally transporting people from the Indian subcontinent into Europe and providing them with forged identity documents issued in Portugal. The irregular migrants took their forged documents and dispersed to other Member States, such as Germany, Italy, Spain, Denmark and other northern European countries.
The irregular migrants paid from EUR 250 for transport from Lisbon to Paris, with higher rates depending on destination and documents provided.
The leader of the OCG used drivers with private cars and vans. Every weekend, a convoy of up to eight vehicles, with a decoy driver at the front, left Portugal bound for France and other European destinations. Authorities estimate that more than 400 transports in one year have already taken place, allowing several thousand migrants to gain illegal entry into Europe via this OCG.
An Operational Coordination Centre was set up at Eurojust, starting at 06:00 on the action day, run by Eurojust’s French and Portuguese Desks, with analysis and support provided by Eurojust’s Case Analysis Unit. Europol’s Focal Point “Checkpoint” deployed mobile offices (two in France and one in Portugal) for on-the-spot intelligence analysis, including forensic retrieval and analysis of mobile telephone data.
The joint action day was planned at a coordination meeting held at Eurojust in October 2013.
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