The irregular migrants were smuggled from Vietnam via South America and finally into the EU in groups of 6 to 12 individuals. Each group was led by an English-speaking smuggler who travelled with them from the beginning and facilitated the communication during the journey. The network received EUR 18 000 from each migrant, which could be paid using several payment methods: either they paid the amount in their home country, gave up their land and property, or they paid in kind once in Europe through unpaid work. It is estimated that the criminal network gained over EUR 13 million.
Ten house searches and over 100 beauty salons inspected
After an eleven-month investigation, the Spanish Policía Nacional discovered that the migrant smuggling group was primarily based in Barcelona. The officers then searched ten houses and inspected over 100 beauty salons across the country. Law enforcement seized four vehicles, several devices and more than EUR 60 000 from the searches.
Altogether 37 individuals were arrested, among them European ringleaders and an official who worked at the foreign office in Huelva, southern Spain, and who had links with a Vietnamese businessman. Both individuals helped counterfeit residency documents for the migrants.
Europol supported the operation by providing full analytical support in the early stages of the investigation. During the coordinated operational activities, an expert from Europol was deployed for on-the-spot support with a mobile office and a Universal Forensic Extraction Device (UFED).