Euro Police Bust Gang Linked to Migrant Smugglers

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European police are claiming another win after busting a suspected cybercrime gang that used the dark web to distribute counterfeit ID documents for migrant smugglers.

An investigation by the French Border Police and Spanish National Police, supported by Europol, led to six house searches and 17 arrests – three in France and 14 in Spain.

During the raids, police seized computers, smartphones, storage devices, counterfeit and genuine ID documents and photocopies of ID documents, labor certificates, administrative documents, payment cards and cash.

The organized crime network distributed forged ID and travel documents in France, Germany, Italy and Spain, according to Europol.

“The documents were used by other criminals involved in the smuggling of migrants to the US, the UK and Ireland and other criminal activities (such as property crimes, trafficking in human beings, drug trafficking),” it said.

“The criminal network was directly involved in migrant smuggling activities and logistical arrangements in return for payments starting at €8000 ($9000) per person.”

Members of the gang, who are said mainly to come from Eastern Europe, apparently also operated in Georgia and Lithuania.

They mainly used dark web channels to distribute the fake documents, focusing on French, Romanian, Georgian, Lithuanian and Polish IDs, according to Europol. However, instant messaging apps and even postal services were also used to get the docs to their intended recipients.

Messaging apps, presumably encrypted ones, were also used by the group to collaborate and exchange images of documents, vehicles and money transfer slips. Europol analysts said they linked some of this information to other ongoing investigations.

Migrant smuggling is a critical area of concern for Europol. Back in October, it signed a working agreement with the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) designed to formalize cooperation on this and other serious and organized crimes.

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