Hundreds of German police officers raided properties in several states on Tuesday, arresting several people accused of smuggling migrants across Europe, authorities said.
Nineteen suspects aged between 21 and 44 are suspected of bringing 140 migrants, most of them Syrian, along Europe’s so-called Balkan route, according to the public prosecutor in the German city of Kempten.
They are accused of 23 cases of commercial and organised smuggling of foreigners.
Germany’s federal police first got wind of the smuggling network when they detained a driver on an autobahn near the border with Austria in August 2019.
Working in tandem with investigators in a number of European countries and Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, the Kempten prosecutors in southern Germany were able to locate the ringleader and have him arrested.
The prosecutor is now working to have him extradited.
The smugglers are said to be well organised and professional.
They used so-called scouts to drive ahead of trucks carrying hidden migrants and give warning of police checks.
The migrants often crossed national borders on foot, while the network leader coordinated the operation via his smartphone from a safe distance.
In Tuesday’s raids, 400 police officers acted on 11 search warrants and arrested seven suspects in Berlin, Lower Saxony, North Rhine Westphalia and Hesse.
They seized evidence including smartphones, which will now be assessed, the German authorities’ statement said. (dpa/NAN)
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