Greece: International Document Forgery Ring Dismantled

Several European law enforcement agencies have busted an international document forgery group, arresting six and seizing thousands of illicit documents, Europol announced on Friday.

The joint operation led by the Organized Crime Unit of the Czech Republic seized more than "1100 altered or falsified passports, 800 ID cards, 100 driving licenses, 65 residence permits," and tens of thousands of items used in forgery including holograms, stamps, and foils.

In a press release, Europol stated that the forgery ring cooperated with "a network of pickpockets" to obtain documents which were sent to Greece to be altered and falsified. The documents were used to abet illegal immigration and allow irregular migrants, largely from Syria and Afghanistan, to travel between EU member states. Europol estimates the ring had collected more than €3 million.

Greek authorities raided what Europol described as "the biggest illicit document printshop ever found in Greece," while further house searches in Greece and the Czech Republic netted additional documents and electronic devices. Officials arrested six Algerian suspects belonging to an international criminal network in the Czech Republic and Greece on October 17 as a part of the operation.

In addition to the international law enforcement bodies Europol and Eurojust, the operation involved cooperation by authorities from Greece, the Czech Republic, and Germany.

According to the German broadcast service Deutsche Welle, Illegal immigration is a significant issue in Europe with nearly 300,000 refugees traveling to the continent last year. Mediterranean routes, where tens of thousands of border crossings occurred in 2012, are popular with immigrants and refugees seeking a new home.