European police bust Afghan migrant smuggling ring

17th February 2012, Comments 0 comments

Police have arrested six members of a ring suspected of transporting thousands of illegal migrants from Afghanistan to Europe via Greece, making millions of euros, the EU justice agency said Friday.

Police from Belgium, Britain, France and Greece took part in "Operation Pakoul", named after a traditional hat worn in Afghanistan, against the ring which smuggled an estimated 5,000 illegal immigrants over the last 10 months.

"The main organiser in Greece is estimated to have smuggled between 120 and 160 migrants each week into various member states," Eurojust said in a statement issued in The Hague.

"This criminal is considered to be one of the most prolific facilitators of illegal immigration in Europe," it added.

Migrants on average paid 10,000 euros to be transported via Turkey, Greece and France to Britain, or from France via Germany to Scandinavia, Eurojust said.

The smuggling ring, consisting mainly of Afghan nationals, also employed Kurdish and Lithuanian facilitators, it added.

Operation Pakoul was the result of a near one-year-long investigation carried out by the French police and its judicial authority based in Lille.

The operation's suspected ringleader was arrested in Greece on Tuesday morning, two suspects were arrested in France, two in Belgium and one in Britain, while various searches were carried out.

The operation was coordinated by Eurojust, a special organisation comprising prosecutors, magistrates and police officers from the 27 European Union member countries, as well as European policing agency Europol.

© 2012 AFP

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