Brussels (Brussels Morning) Officers from the Spanish National Police, supported by Europol, dismantled an organised crime group involved in smuggling migrants, drugs and stolen goods across the Mediterranean last month. During the operation, which was carried out on 14 December but only recently announced, 24 persons were arrested and are currently being charged with property crime, facilitation of illegal immigration and drug trafficking.
The operation included nine house searches, 24 arrests in Spain and various seizures that included four vehicles, 3.5 kg of ecstasy pills (6,500 pills valued at 152,600 euros), 56 grams of phencyclidine, 710 boxes of smuggled tobacco, and stolen goods ranging from 61 mobile devices, competition bikes, electric scooters and electronic equipment to assorted documents and some 40,000 euro in cash.
In the course of the operation, Europol facilitated the exchange of information and provided analytical support. On the key day that the combined action culminated, a Europol expert was dispatched to Spain to assist with the cross-checking of operational information against Europol’s databases and to provide technical support with data extraction and analysis of digital evidence.
Europe and the Middle East
The investigation revealed that the criminal network was smuggling migrants from Algeria to Spain, but also fugitives from Europe to the Middle East, taking advantage of vessels that were returning back to Algeria.
According to Europol, the network was involved in other criminal activities including trafficking of synthetic drugs and documents, property crime and tobacco smuggling. Investigators located and sealed off a warehouse that was being used by the suspects, and which contained a large number of stolen items that were being readied for smuggling to Algeria.
Structured criminal network
The investigators established that the criminal network facilitated the smuggling of 250 irregular migrants into Spain in 54 separate instances in the last few months leading up to the raid and arrests. Moreover, the criminal group was tightly structured and organised, with some members solely involved in managerial tasks, and others involved in accommodation and transportation.
Officers from the Spanish Police also discovered that the leader of the gang and his wife had used their nine-year-old son as a drug mule.
Migrants were charged 5,000 euro for the crossing from Algeria to Almería, Spain, and between 700 1,000 euro for the move from Spain to France.