5 September 2018
An organised crime network responsible for smuggling migrants across the Mediterranean into Greece has been dismantled following an investigation involving the National Crime Agency and Hellenic Police and Coast Guard.
The group charged migrants between three and five thousand euros to transport them across the sea from Egypt into the Greek island of Crete.
The migrants would be held in Crete until payments were made to OCG members in Egypt. From there they would be transported onwards into the UK or other northern European countries, often via another boat journey to Italy.
The network are believed to be responsible for an attempt to cross to Italy in an unseaworthy vessel in May this year, which led to 60 migrants being rescued off the coast of Crete.
Members of a connected group were arrested in March 2017 in Crete when more than a hundred migrants being held in caves and abandoned farm buildings were found.
On Monday 3 September Greek police, supported by officers from the NCA-led Invigor organised immigration taskforce, carried out a series of raids in the cities of Heraklion and Chania on Crete, arresting six people aged between 23 and 49. Four of the men were Greek, the others a Syrian and an Iraqi.
They are suspected of arranging the accommodation and transportation of migrants as well as providing them with false travel documentation; they will now face prosecution in a Greek court.
Investigations are still ongoing to identify members of the crime group and links to other networks.
Chris Hogben, head of the NCA-led Invigor taskforce, said:
“The kind of people smuggling networks we see operating in the Mediterranean represent a huge risk to the lives of those they transport.
“These criminal gangs treat migrants as a commodity to be profited out of – they don’t care about keeping them in horrendous conditions or using completely unsuitable or unseaworthy vessels to move them hundreds of miles across the sea. We have seen that in this investigation.
“We are working with partners such as the Hellenic Police to disrupt these criminal networks, attacking their business models and cash flows, and of course seeking to arrest and prosecute those responsible wherever possible.”
Invigor is the UK’s Organised Immigration Crime Taskforce set up to targets the criminal networks behind people smuggling impacting on the UK and the European borders.
It is led by the NCA and includes Home Office officials, Border Force and the Crown Prosecution Service, working in the UK and internationally.