Spanish National Police arrested 89 people in a coordinated operation targeting a Chinese organized crime group specialized in smuggling people into Spain, as a transit country on the way to the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, and the United States by using forged identity documents or travel documents belonging to someone else.
Four property searches were carried out simultaneously in Barcelona. During the searches, 116 forged passports, 9 mobile phones, 71 SIM cards, 3 laptops, 4 tablet computers, 4 external hard drives and €4,000 were found and seized.
These actions are the culmination of Operation TIJA, an investigation by the Spanish police with support from Europol and other European law enforcement agencies.
The investigation began in June 2013, after several Chinese citizens had attempted to enter Spain by using forged passports or passports that belonged to other individuals. The documents found were from China, Hong Kong, Japan, Macao, Malaysia, Portugal, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan.
After a preliminary investigation, Spanish law enforcement officers uncovered a very active organized group of Chinese and Pakistani criminals based in Barcelona. Having first smuggled the migrants into Spain, the facilitators lodged them in safe houses until the next stage of the journey was arranged (booking the flight, receiving the travel documents from China). Once in Spain, the migrants were provided with various options to illegally enter their favored destination country: land routes through Turkey and Greece, direct or indirect flights, and ferries.
The average cost of the journey was €20,000. The migrants had to pay half up front before starting the journey, and the remaining half after arriving at the destination. If the migrants failed to pay the fee, the criminals would keep their genuine travel documents and would extort their families in China. A common practice among people smugglers the world over.
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