May 29, 2023

Athens News

News in English from Greece

“Factory” for the transportation of migrants to "west" with a profit of more than 9 million euros

The Greek police have dismantled Greece’s largest network of smuggling migrants and falsifying travel documents with a profit of millions of euros.

After a major operation involving 200 policemen in Attica, Thessaloniki and Ilia, 41 members of the organization were arrested, another 55 people were attached to the case file.

Shocking numbers
According to the police, the identified criminal organization has generated income in excess of 9 million euros since mid-2022.

At the same time, it was established that during these months at least 2,322 foreigners were transferred to Greece and from Greece to the countries of Northern Europe, more than 2,500 legal documents were issued and more than 8,000 fake travel documents were issued.

The police investigation revealed 5 forgery workshops and 12 apartments for foreigners to stay in the process of leaving. In fact, during the police raids, more than 80 foreigners who were ready to leave the territory of Greece were identified and arrested. Important in the deconstruction of the criminal organization is the fact that the flow of illegal money is confirmed by the identification of the hawala network of the organization, consisting of 21 stores in Athens and Thessaloniki.

Police investigation
The case was taken over by the Public Security Department of the Athens Sub-Directorate of Security of the Attica Security Directorate.

The group was engaged in illegal trade in migrants from third countries to Greece and then to European countries, as well as the preparation of forged and falsified travel documents.

As part of a massive police operation carried out in Attica, Thessaloniki and Ilia, a total of 41 members of the organization were arrested and charged with criminal organization, professional identity fraud, conspiracy to commit a criminal offense and forgery of identities, violation of laws on foreigners, weapons and drugs, on the prevention and suppression of money laundering, the National Customs Code, as well as in obtaining a false certificate, false certification and falsification, kidnapping and extortion. In addition, 55 people are also included in the case file.

Remuneration and roles of members of a criminal organization

As the investigation established, at least from the middle of 2022, the formation of a criminal organization was created, which had continuous and structured actions, a hierarchical structure and separate roles in order to obtain illegal property benefits, which varied, depending on the method of human trafficking, from 600 to 10 000 euros per person, according to the EL.AS report. To this end, they were also actively engaged in the preparation of fake travel documents, which they provided to foreigners who wanted to leave Greece and move illegally to other European countries.

In order to maximize the efficiency of the work, each member of the group was assigned a role, namely:

  • the leader of the criminal group gave orders, in accordance with which other members acted,
  • the deputy leader received instructions and transmitted them directly to other members, and also acted as the “guarantor-treasurer” of the organization,
  • 25 members (falsifiers) were involved in the preparation of fake documents, covid tests, boarding passes, etc.,
  • 28 members (carriers and escorts) gave instructions and transported foreigners who wished to move to the countries of Northern Europe (in Greece they are called victims of human traffickers. Editor’s note),
  • 7 members – landlords who rented apartments for temporary accommodation of “travelers”,
  • 3 members searched for interested parties,
  • 15 members (guarantors-cashiers) were involved in the storage and management of money received from foreigners wishing to move from Greece, or from other members of the organization – shop owners or employees;
  • 15 regional members who were assigned various tasks depending on the requirements of other members.

How did the gang operate?
In terms of working methods, members of a criminal organization:

  • offered interested parties a wide range of options, both in terms of mode of transportation and destination in a European country
  • transported money through the “HAWALA” system,
  • they also used the “LOOK – ALIKE” method, ie. the use of travel documents whose photograph resembled the characteristics of the persons being transported;
  • providing housing to foreign victims of human trafficking in exchange for a daily or monthly fee of about 150 euros per person. To attract more “customers”, housing was advertised in groups-pages on social networks.

At the same time, they took special countermeasures using telephones registered in the names of non-existent individuals, while speaking in a coded manner so as not to be noticed by law enforcement agencies.

Key phrases
The typical phrases they used were: “nafarat””tomatoes””falafel” which meant “foreign client interested in expedited travel documents”, “master = falsifier”, “book/notebook = passport”, “Category A’ = fake document of good quality” and “Category B’ = fake document of poor quality”.

After discovering the “potential customers” they used various means of transportation (trafficking in the original 🙂 Note. edition.), namely: by air, on foot or by means of a vehicle.

The first way was to fly to their destination cities by booking 2 air tickets, one to a country of their choice in Europe and the other a ticket to a city or island in Greece. At the same time, they were issued similar passports (look-alike method), and transit foreigners received instructions from members of the organization to avoid detection during passport control. The financial reward in this case started from 4,000 euros.

In the case of transportation of foreigners from Asian and African countries, with a stopover in Greece, the transported person paid the necessary amount of money to the guarantee store of the organization’s members in any country. The financial reward for this illegal traffic was between 4,000 and 10,000 euros, and the destinations were usually Serbia, Montenegro, Portugal, the Netherlands, Croatia, France, Austria, Bosnia, Italy, Spain, Germany, Sweden, Hungary, Austria, Bulgaria and the Netherlands .

The second method used by members of the organization was to transport migrants on foot or by vehicle through Turkey to Greek territory. Initially, after organizing them into groups, they crossed the border on foot from Turkey to the Evros region and entered Greek territory. Then they were put into trucks/buses and transported to Thessaloniki or Athens, where they stayed for a short period of time in the “residence” apartments of the members of the organization. During their stay in the country, they were either given a fake legal document to stay in Greece, or the process of their illegal transfer to the countries began. EU.

Foreigners wishing to be smuggled into European countries went through the following procedure:

First, they were collected either in Athens or in one of the districts of the Ilia prefecture, and then they were put into cars that were moving towards the borders of Greece and especially Albania. From there, the escorts took the foreigners on foot or by car to Albania and then to Bosnia or Serbia.

Members of the organization gave instructions for successful transportation, both in terms of money to buy food and various items they were supposed to carry, and in order to avoid detection by the police or border control. The amount of money needed to complete the illegal transportation ranged from 1,250 to 4,000 euros.

As for the residence of foreign citizens (in the original, the same phrase – victims of human trafficking. Editor’s note), members of the criminal organization rented rooms and apartments in which they were placed for a short time before leaving for European countries, demanding payment of a monthly amount of 100 Euro.

In the course of investigations conducted in the center of Athens, 12 apartments were identified that functioned as “hostels”, in which more than 80 illegal immigrants were found and arrested, against whom administrative deportation measures were applied.

In addition, the hawala network of the organization, consisting of 21 stores in Athens and Thessaloniki, was fully identified, and 5 fully equipped workshops for the production of false documents were identified in the center of Athens.

Throughout the preliminary investigation, it was established that the “leading” members of the organization had established an informal regime of intimidation against both other members and associates, demanding their loyalty and preventing them from cooperating with others and foreign clients.

The investigation showed that the members of the organization were involved in a total of:

  • 2322 smuggling of foreign immigrants, for at least 4,000 euros in cash,
  • more than 8,000 fake travel documents for a minimum cash reward of 500 euros,
  • 550 cases of providing housing to foreigners upon departure.

During 102 searches carried out in homes and shops in Attica, Thessaloniki and Ilia, a total of:

  • more than 100 mobile phones,
  • more than 250 electronic devices (H/Y, TABLET, USBSTICKS, hard drives, printers, etc.),
  • 1050 passports and identity cards of foreign states,
  • 72 000 euros,
  • more than 36,000 digital travel document files (passports, identity cards, passport-ID watermarks, etc.) used as templates for fake travel documents,
  • more than 500 confiscated travel documents of foreign and Greek authorities (passports, identity cards, residence permits, driver’s licenses, asylum cards for foreigners, etc.), the authenticity of which is questionable,
  • more than 600 sections of documents – document matrices, namely: covers and cases of passports, residence permits, identity cards, other identity documents, etc.,
  • several bags of drugs
  • 4 accurate scales,
  • 481.4 grams of cannabis,
  • 38 grams of crystal methamphetamine,
  • 8 knives
  • 3 swords
  • Globes,
  • 2 air pistols
  • 21 cartridges of various calibers,
  • 2 shotguns
  • 2 pistols
  • revolver,
  • 5 motorcycles,
  • 2 private cars,
  • many handwritten notes
  • many air tickets
  • 189 fake seals of various services, Greek authorities, consular offices, employees,
  • a large number of phone cards from various companies (SIM cards – GHOSTNUMBER),
  • more than 2500 documents and receipts for money transfers.

It is noted that the total illegal financial benefit of the members of the organization exceeds 9,000,000 euros.

The arrested persons, who have already been brought before by the prosecutor’s office for the same or other crimes, were brought with the materials of the cases formed against them, today in the afternoon, to the competent prosecutor’s office.

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