Police arrest 77 in Kosovan people-smuggling swoop
Police across Europe have arrested 77 people in seven different countries on suspicion of being part of a Kosovan people smuggling ring, a French prosecutor and Europol said on Wednesday.
The largest number of arrests came on Tuesday when Austrian, Czech, French, German, Hungarian, Kosovan and Slovakian police detained 46 suspects, Besancon deputy prosecutor Margaret Parietti said.
The suspects were allegedly part of a network that smuggled illegal Kosovan immigrants into western Europe via Serbia, before helping them settle into their target countries, said Parietti.
The other suspects were arrested in earlier operations, Europol added.
French police on Tuesday held at least 10 suspects in the eastern city of Besancon, and another in Nievre in central France.
Sixteen others were arrested in the Czech Republic, eight in Austria, four in Hungary, three in Kosovo and two in Slovakia, Europol said.
"Operation FALKO" also netted cars, mobile phones, SIM cards, computers, hard drives, forged travel documents and 52,000 euros ($57,000) in cash.
The French-based suspects were due to appear in court in Besancon on Thursday, Parietti said.
They included a 31-year-old Kosovan man suspected of being the main organiser and who has been living in Besancon for several years.
He allegedly managed the "touts "in Kosovo, and the transport schedule and car fleet to drive illegal immigrants to western Europe, Parietti said.
The smugglers charged 2,800 euros per individual and 7,000 euros per family to be smuggled and settled in a new country.
It is believed that between November and December last year at least 36 people made their way into western Europe through the network.
First initiated by Hungary, "yesterday's (Tuesday) swoop was the first tangible result of Operation FALKO," said Europol, who coordinated the operation, together with the its judicial counterpart Eurojust.
© 2015 AFP