NEWS

Police bust airport trafficking ring

An airline pilot, an airport check-in attendant and two Thessaloniki-based travel agents are among seven people arrested on suspicion of helping migrants travel from Greece to Germany with fake papers, authorities revealed Wednesday.

A 48-year-old Cypriot man, who has been on the Cyprus police’s wanted list since 2004 for fraud and forgery, is alleged to have masterminded the operation. He was arrested along with the other six suspects following raids in Thessaloniki and Athens on Tuesday.

An investigation was launched after police at Thessaloniki’s Makedonia Airport noticed suspicious movements by Syrian travelers. The aliens bureau carried out a five-month probe and found that the trafficking ring had been helping to ferry immigrants to Germany illegally since at least October 2013.

Each Syrian paid the ring between 2,000 and 3,000 euros to be given forged identity papers and a ticket out of Greece. The Cypriot is alleged to have created five forged identity cards that were used by the migrants to get past airport security.

The check-in attendant allegedly worked with the 48-year-old to help the migrants board their flights. Authorities said she gave the ring information about when inexperienced airline and security employees would be on duty, making it easier for the migrants to pass unnoticed. She allegedly received 600 euros for each immigrant who left Makedonia Airport without getting caught.

The travel agents are accused of knowingly issuing airplane tickets for passengers with forged papers.

Police made the arrests after tapping the ring members’ phones. During the conversations, it was revealed that the 31-year-old pilot was also involved in the trafficking activities.