Network Smuggling Migrants via Private Jets Dismantled

Published: 21 September 2022

Migrants Plane Italy PoliceThe migrants would pay tens of thousands of dollars to board these private aircrafts with a forged Caribbean diplomatic passport in hand - only to be tossed aside once landed in Europe. (Photo: Polizia di Stato, Italy, License)

By Inci Sayki

Authorities have dismantled a criminal network that was smuggling migrants from Turkey to Europe via private jet trips costing up to 20,000 euros ($20,000) per head, Eurojust said on Friday.

Coordinated efforts carried out by police forces across five European countries, European law enforcement agencies Europol and Eurojust, and U.S. authorities resulted in the arrests of five suspected smugglers, two in Brussels and three in Rome, last week.

The suspects would give migrants false diplomatic passports from St. Kitts and Nevis and board them on private aircrafts headed to the Caribbean state with a layover in Europe, an Italian police statement on last week’s arrests said.

Upon landing at a European airport, including in Austria, France, and Germany, the migrants, mainly of Iraqi, Iranian, and Kurdish descent, would dispose of their forged passports and file for political asylum systematically.

Investigators believe that between October and December 2020 at least five such smuggling operations occurred in five different European countries.

“In addition to migrant smuggling and forging identity documents, the organized crime group is also suspected of issuing false checks and scamming airlines in an attempt to build its own fleet,” Eurojust said. They would also defraud hotels by not paying their bills.

According to the Italian police, among those arrested were four men of Egyptian nationality and one Tunisian woman.

Last week’s joint action day also saw the seizure of two aircrafts, one luxury car, over $250,000, and equipment used to forge identity cards including card printers, stamps, holograms and white plastic cards.