The French Border Police and the Spanish National Police, with the support of Europol, have dismantled an organized criminal group involved in the purchase and distribution of false travel and identity documents.
During the working days in France and Spain, which occurred between January 31 and February 16, 2022, French and Spanish police authorities searched six homes – three in France and three in Spain.
In addition, they arrested 17 people – three main suspects in France and 14 suspects in Spain, in addition to confiscating electronic equipment, forged and original identity documents, work certificates, payment cards and cash, among other things.
According to a press release from the European Union’s law enforcement agency, Europol, the criminal group distributed fake identity cards and travel documents in France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
The documents were then used by other criminals involved in smuggling migrants to the UK, Ireland and the US. The documents have also been used to carry out other criminal activities, including property crime, drug smuggling and human trafficking, TheSchengen.com reports.
Europol reveals that the criminal network is directly involved in migrant smuggling activities and logistical arrangements in exchange for payments starting at €8,000 per person.
It was clarified that members of the criminal network were operating mainly in France, Germany, Georgia, Italy, Lithuania and Spain. In order to distribute the fake documents, they used the dark web, postal services and instant messaging applications.
“Members of the criminal network, who hail mainly from Eastern European countries, have been operating in several countries, including France, Germany, Georgia, Italy, Lithuania and Spain. The criminal network has largely distributed fake documents on the dark web, but also on instant messaging applications and postal services “.
The criminal network mainly forged French, Georgian, Romanian, Polish and Lithuanian identity cards. In addition, it was revealed that they also forged residence permits, vehicle registration documents, divers licenses and travel documents.
Network members used messaging apps to communicate and exchange vehicle photos, documents, and money transfer receipts.
“The analysts at Europol were able to use information from this case to uncover many links with other ongoing investigations, based on the information they already had,” Europol explained.
Previously, Europol supported the German and Greek police authorities in exposing a criminal smuggling scheme in Germany. During the process, the authorities arrested a person for smuggling migrants into the European Union and confiscated a large number of identity documents.
>> Europol: Migrant smuggling and human trafficking networks are more digital than ever