NCA aids conviction of international people smuggling group
Four leaders of an international people smuggling network have been handed combined prison sentences of more than 1,400 years following an investigation supported by the National Crime Agency (NCA).
The investigation was launched after 112 migrants were rescued in a joint operation involving the Hellenic Police, Hellenic Coastguard and the NCA in March last year.
The men, women and children – from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Iran – were discovered in squalid conditions in caves and farm buildings in southern Crete.
They had been charged between 2,000 and 4,000 euros per person for transport from Athens to Crete, then to Italy by sea.
On May 25 at a court in Heraklion, two Afghan men and a Syrian man were sentenced to 360 years in prison, while an Iraqi man was handed 357 years. Each offender was also fined more than a million euros.
A further seven members of the group were given sentences ranging between six and 12 years.
The court also revealed that they were aided by six members of a criminal network based in Crete, one of which was a serving police officer. They were sentenced to between one and five years’ imprisonment.
Chris Hogben, head of the UK’s Organised Immigration Crime Taskforce, said: “The criminal networks involved in people smuggling cross international boundaries so it is vital as an international law enforcement community we work together to tackle them.
“The UK provided vital support in this investigation, and it shows how our partnership with the Greek authorities is vital to protect life and disrupt the organised crime groups making money from people’s misery.
“The utter disregard for human life shown by those groups was clearly demonstrated in this case, with migrants forced to live in squalor and then attempt an incredibly dangerous journey by sea.
“The very substantial sentences handed down by the Greek Court should send a very clear message to those tempted to profit from this sort of criminality.”