Spain cracks groups forging residency papers for Brits
Spanish police said Thursday they had smashed two rings suspected of helping British citizens illegally obtain residence permits by providing them with forged documents.
Officers arrested 47 people when they moved against the two gangs operating in the southern beach resort of Marbella and the Spanish enclave of Ceuta in North Africa, said a police statement.
They allegedly provided Britons with fake versions of the documents needed to qualify for residency, such as rental contracts, bank statements and bills, the statement added.
“Both networks, which had no links between them, used the same modus operandi to regularise British nationals, obtaining a profit of around 1,600 euros per person,” it said.
British citizens lost the automatic right to live and work in Spain when Britain’s exit from the European Union came into force in 2021.
But under the so-called Withdrawal Agreement, Britons who could prove they were living in Spain before the end of 2020 though documents such as rental contracts could obtain residency more easily than those who moved after Brexit.
Police said officials had so far identified 120 requests for residency under this agreement that had been backed by false documents supplied by the two rings.
At least three of the requests were from “criminals who aimed to hide” in the southern province of Malaga on Spain’s Costa del Sol, home to a huge British community.
Police said they began their investigation in April 2021 after detecting a surge in residency applications from Britons in Malaga.
Among those arrested were three of the suspected heads of the gang that operated in Marbella, and two of the leaders of the ring from Ceuta.
The suspects face charges of membership of a criminal organisation, aiding illegal immigration and document fraud.
Britain’s embassy in Madrid in late 2021 warned Britons against submitting fraudulent residency applications, saying Spanish authorities were “particularly on alert” for forged lease contracts and healthcare insurance.
There were around 290,000 Britons legally living in Spain at the start of 2022, according to national statistics office INE, making them the fourth largest foreign community in the country.