On November 13 2019, the German Federal Police (Bundespolizei) and the Romanian Police (Poliția Română) supported by Europol, concluded their operation into a large criminal network smuggling migrants to western Europe in trucks. Austria, Hungary, the United Kingdom and Eurojust also took part in this two-year, Europe-wide operation.
During this last phase of the operation, the Romanian Police carried out eight searches and arrested four suspected members of the organized crime group. The German Federal Police carried out five searches.
The operation was initiated in Germany in 2018 when authorities detected migrants from Iran, Iraq and Syria entering Germany in trucks via Czechia and Hungary. The investigation uncovered a massive network smuggling people from their countries of origin to Timișoara, Romania then to Germany. During the final leg of the journey to western Europe, the migrants were forced to travel in trucks.
Criminals use container smuggling to move people over borders thereby putting them in life-threatening situations. Loaded into cargo vehicles, migrants can suffer from lack of oxygen and dehydration, risking their lives before reaching their final destination.
The investigation into this organized crime group uncovered a network composed of at least 36 members who earned more than €2 million from nearly 580 smuggled migrants.
The final operational results of the two-year investigation include:
- 580 smuggled migrants identified;
- Three individuals suspected to be the organizers (high-value targets) arrested in Germany, Greece and the United Kingdom;
- 36 suspects identified with at least ten individuals arrested (truck drivers and facilitators);
- Four truck drivers arrested in Czechia and sentenced in Germany ranging from 20 months to over 5 years and another one arrested and awaiting sentencing in Hungary.
Europol facilitated the information exchange between the participating countries and analyzed operational information against Europol’s databases to provide leads to investigators. Europol also provided on-the-spot operational support by deploying one analyst to Timișoara to provide real-time analytical support.
For the needs of the whole operation, a Joint Investigation Team and an Operational Task Force were formed in 2018 to tackle the criminal group. Europol organized regular operational meetings for the investigators to identify three high-value targets (leaders of the criminal network); all of them were arrested during the operation leading to the complete dismantling of the criminal group.