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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 Hellenic Police, and the Italian Financial Corps have dismantled a large organised crime group that was involved in migrant smuggling.

During the action day, which took place yesterday, on January 19, the responsible authorities did 28 house searches. Fifteen houses were searched in Albania, two in Greece, and 11 in Italy.

Moreover, during the same operation, 29 persons were arrested. Of them, 18 were arrested in Albania, one in Greece, and ten in Italy, SchengenVisaInfo.com reports.

The authorities believe that the suspects, who are mainly nationals of Iraq and Syria, are part of a criminal network consisting of around 80 members that are allegedly responsible for over 30 sea smuggling operations.

Through these operations, the suspects have smuggled over 1,110 migrants to the European Union, thus, gaining hundreds of millions of euros.

According to Europol, the criminal group operated migrant smuggling activities from Turkey to Italy’s Salento coast via Albania and Greece. After arriving in Italy, the migrants were then able to reach other EU countries.

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

It has been revealed that the criminal groups primarily used sea routes to illegally transfer migrants from Turkey via the Easter Mediterranean road to their final destination in the EU.

To make the sea transfers, the smugglers used leisure vessels, mainly yachts, which were rented by the criminal network and skippered by novice seamen purposely recruited by the network.

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

Europol supported this particular investigation for more than 18 months. During these months, Europol provided the law enforcement partners with intelligence analysis packages as well as helped them to exchange information and organise operational meetings between the investigators.

On the action day, Europol sent two experts to Albania, one to Greece, and one to Italy to assist with the crosschecking of information against the databases of Europol. The experts also provided technical support.

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

Previously, SchengenVisaInfo.com reported that Europol targeted 455 social media accounts that were facilitating illegal migration from Belarus to the EU. The social media accounts were targeted as a result of large-scale referral action.

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