Europol has supported the Spanish National Police (Policía Nacional) in dismantling an organized crime group involved in migrant smuggling from Morocco to Spain through the Strait of Gibraltar. More than 150 police officers were deployed in Spain to arrest the suspects, considered dangerous because of their history of violent crimes and suspected possession of weapons.
Some 20 suspects were arrested and charged with migrant smuggling and four murders related to the deaths of people who drowned during a sea crossing. The operation also resulted in seizures of three boats, fuel, weapons and mobile devices.
The criminal network was composed of Spanish and Moroccan nationals. The suspects smuggled Moroccan nationals through the Strait of Gibraltar on different vessels, some of them stolen. The boats were fueled at sea to avoid suspicions from the authorities.
The migrants, mainly young individuals and often minors were paying about €2,500 per person for the smuggling services. The suspects transported the migrants in life-threatening conditions without any safety measures. Evidence suggests links between the network and a deadly shipwreck, which took four lives in February.
Europol facilitated the exchange of information, provided operational coordination and analytical support. On the action day on March 29, Europol deployed an analyst to Spain to support with technical expertise and to enable the real-time exchange of information and cross check operational information against Europol’s databases in order to provide leads to investigators in the field.