6 June 2018
Four leaders of an international people smuggling network have been given combined jail sentences totalling more than 1,400 years in Greece, following an investigation supported by the National Crime Agency.
The investigation followed the rescue of 112 migrants in a joint operation involving the Hellenic Police, Hellenic Coastguard and NCA in March 2017.
The men, women and children from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Iran were found living in squalid conditions in caves and farm buildings in southern Crete.
They had been charged between €2000 and €4000 per person for transport from Athens to Crete and then on to Italy by sea. From there they would likely have continued on into the UK or northern Europe.
On 25 May a court in Heraklion sentenced two Afghan men and a Syrian man to 360 years in prison, while an Iraqi man was given 357 years. Each was also fined more than a million Euros.
Another seven members of the international crime group were handed sentences ranging between six and 12 years. The court also found that they were aided by six members of a criminal network based in Crete, including one who was a serving policeman. They were sentenced to between one and five years in prison.
The Greek investigation into the networks was heavily supported by the NCA and Project Invigor, the UK's Organised Immigration Crime taskforce.
The NCA’s Chris Hogben, head of the taskforce, said:
“The criminal networks involved in people smuggling cross international boundaries so it is vital as an international law enforcement community we work together to tackle them.
“The UK provided vital support in this investigation, and it shows how our partnership with the Greek authorities is vital to protect life and disrupt the organised crime groups making money from people’s misery.
“The utter disregard for human life shown by those groups was clearly demonstrated in this case, with migrants forced to live in squalor and then attempt an incredibly dangerous journey by sea. The very substantial sentences handed down by the Greek Court should send a very clear message to those tempted to profit from this sort of criminality.”
The UK's Organised Immigration Crime taskforce, Project Invigor, targets the criminal networks behind people smuggling. It is led by the NCA and includes partners such as Immigration Enforcement, Border Force and the Crown Prosecution Service, working in the UK and internationally.