On December 8, 24 people were arrested and several house searches were carried out in Greece as part of a joint investigation by Greece and the UK, Europol said Monday.
According to Europol, the individuals were arrested on suspicion of being part of an organized crime group believed to be facilitating the smuggling of Iranian nationals from Greece to the UK, often via France and Spain, by using counterfeit documents or impersonating their legitimate owners.
A Europol specialist in illegal immigrant facilitation, equipped with a mobile office, was deployed on-the-spot and assisted national authorities throughout the operation.
Investigators believe the group was charging up to 10,000 euros per person to supply migrants with fraudulently obtained or altered identity documents, and to arrange their onward journeys to the UK.
Four forgery facilities, where the group was alleged to have produced the counterfeit documents, were dismantled during the operation. Forgery equipment, 50,000 euros in cash and hundreds of documents were also seized.
In a linked operation, nine suspects were arrested as UK officers were deployed to addresses in Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester and Northampton on 5 December. They were supported on-the-spot by a Europol analyst with a mobile office, who performed real-time analysis and cross-checks against Europol’s databases. Three French police officers also provided support.
The suspected criminal network was based in the UK, more specifically in Greater Manchester, and conducted its activities in other Member States. Due to the transnational activities of the network, parallel investigations emerged in the Czech Republic, France, Greece and Spain, under the coordination of Europol and Eurojust. A joint investigation team was also established between the UK and France, Europol said.