Mass police operation sees 62-strong smuggling gang arrested for trafficking 5,000 Cuban migrants into Europe

Police from several European nations were involved in the police sting last month that brought an end to a lucrative smuggling business operating across the continent

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: Thomas Brooke

A joint operation from authorities in five European nations has resulted in the capture of a smuggling gang that brought upwards of 5,000 illegal Cuban immigrants into the European Union over the past few years.

A statement from Europol on Monday revealed that 62 suspected smugglers were detained in a sting last month who had been operating in Germany, Greece, North Macedonia, Serbia and Spain. Some 25 of the smugglers were Cuban nationals.

They had reportedly specialized in the smuggling of migrants from the Caribbean island using an “unusually long and expensive route,” which saw the new arrivals transported from Cuba to Serbia via Frankfurt airport, before being smuggled into Greece and flown to Spain.

Initially, the route had seen the migrants flown to Russia before being smuggled across the border into Finland; however; this was switched last year following a border crackdown in the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“Members of the migrant smuggling network used a well-known messaging application to advertise their illicit services to Cuban clients in vulnerable situations,” the Europol statement read.

“For a payment of around €9,000 they would organize the trip, transfers, and provide false documentation,” it added.

Europol posted footage of the sting on its social media platforms

It is estimated that the gang had been successful in transporting more than 5,000 migrants into the European Union over a number of years via the hugely lucrative scheme, which saw them pocked €45 million.

“The investigation revealed a complex criminal infrastructure set up in many cities across Spain, Greece and in Serbia, flexible and able to adapt to changing circumstances in order to keep their illicit business going,” Europol added.

“Using a variety of routes, the smugglers would direct large groups of migrants and make them walk in the dark without supplies for hours.

“In addition to these arduous conditions, the criminals would take advantage of the most vulnerable migrants, including minors, and subject them to scams, robberies, and extortion,” the statement read, adding that some women who had been smuggled into Europe had been passed into the hands of other criminal groups for sexual exploitation.

The sting last month saw police officers from three countries storm properties belonging to the criminal organization, seizing hundreds of forged documents and forgery equipment, as well as 18 pieces of real estate, 33 vehicles, 144 bank accounts, and vast sums of cash.

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