International gang of 101 people smugglers that ‘charged £22,000 to sneak immigrants into Britain’ is rounded up as ‘ringleader is arrested at Heathrow trying to flee to Brazil’
- Spanish police claim to have smashed international gang of people smugglers
- Alleged ringleader ‘was arrested at Heathrow Airport as he tried to flee to Brazil’
- Police say the gang charged more than £22,000 to smuggle people into Britain
Police in Spain have smashed a gang of 101 people smugglers which was charging illegal immigrants more than £22,000 to reach Britain.
Officers arrested 14 of the 15 suspected members in Malaga but the alleged ringleader was held at London’s Heathrow Airport as he tried to flee to Brazil.
Nearly 50 Iranians using falsified Spanish passports they bought from the people trafficking gang were intercepted as part of the police operation.
Police also revealed they had arrested another 42 people, also in Malaga, for selling their Spanish travel documents to the organisation for up to £2,600.
The investigation leading to the mass arrests was sparked a year ago when four Iranians were stopped as they tried to board a flight from the German city of Hamburg to the UK, using fake Spanish passports and tickets bought in a Malaga travel agency.
Police say each suspected gang member had a set role, with some focusing on capturing clients and others specialising in putting the illegal immigrants up in safe houses while their travel documents were prepared and their routes into Britain finalised.
The suspected ringleader was held as he tried to board a flight to Sao Paulo in Brazil at the end of June in what Spanish officers have described as an ‘attempt to avoid police arrest.’
A spokesman for Spain’s National Police, which released footage today showing them seizing passports and other material including computers, two starting pistols and an imitation rifle, said: ‘National Police officers have smashed one of the main international criminal networks, due to the number of people trafficked, which operated in Europe and specialised in trafficking people from Iran to the UK.
‘The organisation used Spain, where most of its members were based, as a transit country.
‘Fourteen of the 15 heads of the organisation have been arrested in Malaga.
‘The leader was held with the cooperation of the Met Police at London’s Heathrow Airport when he was trying to flee to Brazil.’
The spokesman added: ‘The organisation charged people 25,000 euros to facilitate them falsified Spanish passports and transfer them to the UK as well as put them in accommodation until their arrival at their final destination.
‘Investigators have also been able to track down and detain another 42 people, also in Malaga, on suspicion of selling their Spanish documentation to members of the organisation, in exchange for amounts of money that went from 500 euros to 3,000 euros.
‘Another 44 Iranians have also been intercepted in different European airports with falsified passports.’
Spanish police were unable to say today how many illegal immigrants they thought may have made it into Britain.