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Europol Helps Greek Police Seize 4,650 Fake IDs for Migrants, Bust Smugglers

ATHENS – Greek police squads aided by Europol busted a criminal network that helped provide fraudulent documents to migrants and helped smuggle them, the operation based in Athens, law enforcement authorities said.

The Aliens Division of Attica within the Greek Police (ELAS) Hellenic Police directed the investigation that found the group produced high-quality falsified travel and identification documents, which were used to enable irregular migrants to travel illegally across the EU and legalize their stay in their final destination country.

The investigation was from September 2023 through  February 2024. More than 50 connected cases of smuggling by air have been investigated, said Europol, adding that 11 people were arrested, including Palestinians, Latvians, Iranis, Syrians and Lebanese.

https://www.europol.europa.eu/media-press/newsroom/news/almost-5-000-false-identity-documents-seized-in-greece

Europol said four print shops were dismantled, electronic equipment seized – including 10 high-end laser printers and other materials to make false documents and more than 20,000 euros ($21,862) was confiscated.

The suspects used such sophisticated equipment, including software and document scanners that the forged documents were difficult to detect from real ones and were sold for 400-1200 euros ($437-$1311) depending on its type and country of origin

The documents seized during the raids alone held an estimated market value of 600,000 euros ($655,850) and the suspects also allegedly used them to smuggle the migrants on commercial flights, which would bring their cost to 6000 euros ($6558.)

The documents found during the raids were predominantly forgeries of EU documents (imitating Belgian, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Greek, German, Italian, Hungarian, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, Norwegian, Colombian and Ukrainian documents.

The forgers, who were running independent print shops, collaborated with each other on a case-by-case basis, mainly in the exchange of raw materials or in the preparation of specialized documents, the report said.

The forgers avoided direct contact with customers, irregular migrants or members of other migrant smuggling networks, instead using intermediaries who were concluding the deals and delivering the false documents on their behalf.

Authorities said the size and sophistication of the scheme indicated the criminals and smugglers were using more high-end means to get migrants out of Greece instead of trying to sneak them across borders.

The smugglers also provided false documents which would enable migrants to change their residence status within the European Union, with Europol saying it showed a widespread use of fraudulent documents.

Europol supported this investigation by facilitating information exchange, coordinating operational activities and providing tailored operational analytical support, while deploying two experts to Greece to support the field activities by cross checking the operational information collected in real-time. Europol also provided operational analysis to help deliver possible leads to investigators on the ground.

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