Gang smuggling migrants to UK smashed by Europol in joint operation
French and Romanian authorities have arrested 11 members of an organised crime group (OCG) involved in the smuggling of 308 migrants to the UK.
Eighteen house searches were carried out in Romania, where firearms and more than £425,000 in cash was seized.
The operation was supported by Eurojust and Europol, with its European Migrant Smuggling Centre providing analysis of operational data and hosting an operational meeting prior to the arrest phase. Eight French investigators travelled to Romania and exchanged information directly between the two authorities.
The OCG was mostly Romanian truck drivers, intermediaries and leaders, while the smuggled migrants were mainly from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Palestine.
The OCG used trucks belonging to Romanian companies and the migrants were transferred to transit sites in northern France, Belgium and the Netherlands, before making the final journey to the UK.
The truck drivers promised ‘guaranteed transit’ to the migrants and charged them an average fee of £11,000. The total proceeds of the illegal operation amounted to approximately £3 million.
So far, 59 active OCG members have been identified. The criminals are suspected of illegal migrant smuggling, participating in a criminal organisation and money laundering. France took the lead in the investigation in August 2018 and was joined by the Romanian and UK authorities in March 2019 and Dutch investigators in May 2019.
In 2010, the EU set up a four-year Policy Cycle to ensure greater continuity in the fight against serious international and organised crime. In March 2017, the Council of the EU decided to continue the EU Policy Cycle for organised and serious international crime for the 2018-2021 period. This multiannual Policy Cycle aims to tackle the most significant threats posed by organised and serious international crime to the EU in a coherent and methodological manner.