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Europol: 29 Arrested in Albania, Greece & Italy for Smuggling Hundreds of Migrants to EU

With the support of Europol and Eurojust, the Albanian criminal police, the Greek police and the Italian financial authority dismantled a large group of organized crime that was involved in the smuggling of migrants.

During the working day that occurred yesterday, January 19, the responsible authorities carried out 28 home searches. Fifteen homes were searched in Albania, two in Greece, and 11 in Italy.

Moreover, during the same operation 29 people were arrested. Among them, 18 were arrested in Albania, one in Greece and ten in Italy, reports.

Authorities believe the suspects, most of whom are nationals of Iraq and Syria, are part of a criminal network of about 80 members allegedly responsible for more than 30 maritime smuggling operations.

Through these operations, the suspects smuggled more than 1,110 migrants into the European Union, thus earning hundreds of millions of euros.

According to Europol, the criminal group carried out the activities of smuggling migrants from Turkey to the Italian coast of Salento via Albania and Greece. After arriving in Italy, the migrants were able to reach other European Union countries.

“The investigation began with the revelation of an ongoing smuggling operation that saw the successful rescue of transported migrants and the arrest of eight low-level smugglers,” Europol said.

It was revealed that criminal groups mainly used sea routes to transport migrants illegally from Turkey via the Eastern Mediterranean route to their final destination in the European Union.

To carry out sea transports, smugglers used recreational boats, mainly yachts, rented by the criminal network and led by novice sailors deliberately recruited by the network.

In addition, it was revealed that the suspects used informal money transfer services to receive payments from immigrants.

Europol has supported this private investigation for more than 18 months. During these months, Europol provided law enforcement partners with intelligence analysis packages, helped them share information and organize operational meetings between investigators.

On the working day, Europol sent two experts to Albania, one to Greece and one to Italy to help check the information against Europol’s databases. Experts also provided technical support.

“To facilitate judicial cooperation, Eurojust formed a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) between Albania, Greece, Italy and Europol in January 2021,” Europol added.

Previously, reported that Europol targeted 455 social media accounts that were facilitating illegal immigration from Belarus to the European Union. Social media accounts have been targeted as a result of extensive referral actions.

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