In an operation carried out with help from the European police agency Europol, law enforcement authorities in northern Greece have dismantled what they believe to be a large migrant smuggling ring.
According to an announcement released by the Hellenic Police (ELAS) on Tuesday, the racket has been active since September at least, smuggling dozens of irregular migrants into the European Union across Greece’s land border with Turkey.
Five suspected members of the network have been arrested, among whom are two Iraqi nationals, aged 47 and 52, who are believed to be the gang’s ringleader and “cashier,” respectively.
The findings of the police’s months-long operation suggest that the gang charged each customer between 2,000 and 3,000 euros to smuggle them by boat across Evros River in northeastern Greece and then take them onto the northern port city of Thessaloniki by car or van. For the higher fee, the network would also arrange for them to continue their journey towards central or northern Europe.
Investigators have reportedly gathered evidence linking the suspects to at least seven smuggling operations.
Raids on properties connected to the two main suspects have turned up more than 22,000 euros in cash, a plethora of bank cards and travel documents belonging to different people, as well as cell phones and SIM cards that are being analyzed by experts.