Spain Moves Against Syndicate Smuggling Hundreds of Albanians Into U.S. and UK

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Spain has arrested 18 people in a strike against a criminal network smuggling hundreds of Albanian illegal migrants into the United Kingdom and the United States.

The 18 suspects, arrested in the Catalan port city of Tarragona, are believed to have facilitated the illegal migration of around 400 Albanians into Britain and America, according to schengenvisainfo news.

The European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol), a supranational law enforcement body in the style of INTERPOL, has claimed credit for organising the operation led by the Spanish National Police, in cooperation with the Albanian State Police and other law enforcement in Austria, France, Italy, Portugal, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Serbian breakaway territory of Kosovo, which is home to a large ethnic Albanian population.

Europol said that the arrest operation involved two house raids, which uncovered “counterfeited documents, financial documentation, records of the illegal activities, electronic equipment, cash and various drugs (cannabis, cocaine and synthetic drugs)”.

In an official statement, Europol further explained that the Tarragona bust stemmed from an investigation into “the growing use of specific types of falsified documents by Western Balkan immigrants” which has been ongoing since 2019.

“Previous phases of the investigation led to the dismantling of a group of criminals identified on the Caribbean island of Saint Maarten who smuggled Albanian immigrants with falsified documents to the United States,” the European Union agency reported.

“Couriers travelling to Kosovo and Albania to distribute the falsified documents were also arrested in December 2020. Four print shops for forged documents in Kosovo were dismantled in March 2021. So far, the investigation has led to 46 arrests, more than 400 migrants identified at airports and 1,000 false documents seized.”

Europol said that, ultimately, “the investigation targeted a criminal network based in the United Kingdom and Ireland, which managed the flights and the reception of the migrants into those countries,” with information provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) leading to “the identification of a high-value target in Spain.”

Three connected criminal investigations are said to be ongoing in the United States.

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