Police break trafficker ring linked to China
Two-year investigation into people smugglers leads to 75 arrests in raids in Spain and France
A gang that allegedly charged Chinese citizens up to €50,000 (£43,000) to enter Europe and the US, and which is thought to have fuelled the illegal sex trade in the West, has been broken up following a joint Spanish and French police operation.
More than 70 suspected people-traffickers were arrested after a two-year investigation into the network. Spain's Interior Ministry said that two central figures at the European end of the operation, reportedly based in Barcelona, were among the 51 arrested in Spain and 24 in France.
Officials alleged that in return for thousands of pounds, the smugglers would provide false passports and other necessary permits to leave China and enter Europe or the US.
Chinese nationals were ferried to destinations including Britain, Spain, France, Greece, Italy, Turkey and the US. Those who could not afford to pay were locked into repayment schemes that often saw them end up in prostitution, investigators said.
The extent of the people-smugglers' association with Chinese organised crime has not been revealed by prosecutors. They claimed yesterday that "employees" of the organisation would provide safe houses for the Chinese "passengers", while false documents were prepared, usually for entry to the UK or US. The group "pinned" or shadowed the migrants throughout their journey. This was said to have been undertaken by fully trusted members of the gang who had in-depth knowledge of airports and cities on the transfer run.
It is claimed that organisers constantly altered the routes and documents used to move people based on the success or failure of previous trips, in order to better avoid detection of their charges.
The transportees were given instructions on how to pass unnoticed at border controls and were advised to camouflage themselves among tour groups, investigators said.
They added that a total of 81 false passports from countries including Taiwan, Korea, Malaysia, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore were seized. All the counterfeits had been produced in China.
Spanish and French authorities also seized materials used for forgery such as laptops, scanners, UV lamps, rubber stamps and ink pads, as well as 11 telephone terminals, cash and other documentation.
The total number of people to have been smuggled from China remains unconfirmed.
The gang's main European hub is thought to have been Barcelona's Prat de Llobregat airport, with the city acting as a springboard to the passengers' final destinations.
According to the Interior Ministry, in 2011 an investigation was launched into the complex operation "dedicated to aiding and abetting illegal immigration and tangentially to human trafficking for purposes of sexual exploitation".
The smuggling organisation is said to have been well structured and hierarchical, with its chief based in China and established independent cells operating in different countries with "the greatest secrecy".
The EU and US have come to recognise that human-trafficking through Spain is an increasing problem, but Spain has been taking more measures to protect people, particularly women and children. In March, Spanish police uncovered two prostitution rings in Madrid that were being run by Romanians.
Elsewhere, six migrants drowned yesterday after their boat ran aground on a sand bar off a popular Sicilian beach and they tried unsuccessfully to swim to shore. About 90 others on board survived, authorities said.
- 1 Rarest Beanie Baby bought for just £10 at car boot sale could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 2 Katie Hopkins and The Sun editor David Dinsmore reported to police for incitement to racial hatred following migrant boat column
- 3 Parma, Missouri: 80 per cent of town's police quit after first black mayor is elected
- 4 Australian student Tommy Connolly, 23, adopts his pregnant, homeless 17-year-old cousin to give her a chance at 'a better life'
- 5 Google search history can now be downloaded in its entirety, mass embarrassment expected
Rarest Beanie Baby bought for just £10 at car boot sale could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
Katie Hopkins and The Sun editor David Dinsmore reported to police for incitement to racial hatred following migrant boat column
'Jihadi John': Isis executioner Mohammed Emwazi wanted to wage jihad in Somalia until his friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
Parma, Missouri: 80 per cent of town's police quit after first black mayor is elected
Australian student Tommy Connolly, 23, adopts his pregnant, homeless 17-year-old cousin to give her a chance at 'a better life'
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
Katie Hopkins on LBC: Listen to caller taking The Sun columnist to task over migrant comments
£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...
£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SEO Account Manager is requi...
£35-45K (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a .NET Developer / Web ...