Smuggling network up in smoke: Seven arrested in Spain

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Moroccan and Malian nationals apprehended after using former tobacco smuggling routes to facilitate illegal immigration between Spain and France

A joint investigation by Spain’s Civil Guard (Guardia Civil) and the French National Gendarmerie (Gendarmerie Nationale), supported by Europol, led officers to dismantle an organised crime group involved in migrant smuggling. The group is believed to have facilitated secondary movements, which is the process of moving irregular migrants from their country of arrival to another destination within the European Union. Incidence of secondary movements is growing, with new organised criminal groups forming in Europe’s transit cities in order to exploit irregular migrants.

The organised crime group would firstly seek newly-arrived irregular migrants in southern and eastern Spanish coastal areas such as Murcia, Alicante, Vizcaya, Guipuzcoa, Navarra and Barcelona. The migrants arrived by boat from destinations in North and West Africa. Those irregular migrants would then be taken by road to France via former tobacco smuggling routes in Guipuzcoa and Navarra. The main destination point from there would be Bordeaux, France, with the organised crime group facilitating further illegal immigration from Bordeaux to countries across the European Union. 

The criminal group used at least two vehicles to cross the borders. The first transported the irregular migrants, while the second acted as a scout to warn in advance of possible police checkpoints. The suspects instructed the migrants to step out of the car and pretend to hitchhike in case of police checks. Using historic tobacco smuggling routes between Spain and France, the group was operating for about six months. The criminals charged between €100 and €330 for each border crossing. The investigation suggests that they have facilitated at least 60 border-crossings, with three to four migrants per transit.

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