A transnational network responsible for smuggling at least 5,000 Cuban nationals into the European Union was taken down by a coalition of law enforcement agencies last month, authorities announced this week.
Raids carried out in June during the “action day” in Serbia, Greece, and Spain resulted in the arrests of 62 suspects, 25 of whom were identified as citizens of Cuba.
Dozens of vehicles, 18 pieces of real estate, and 144 bank accounts were seized during the bust, along with hundreds of forged documents and “vast sums of cash.”
“The investigation was triggered in October 2021 after Serbian, Greek, North Macedonian and Finnish authorities reported an increased number of Cuban citizens attempting to enter Europe with falsified documentation,” Europol explained in a statement this week.
🚨62 transcontinental migrant smugglers arrested.
💶Over 5000 migrants smuggled from Cuba via Serbia into the European Union for EUR 9 000 per person.
— Europol (@Europol) July 24, 2023
Migrants paid approximately $10,000 (9,000 EUR) to operatives who provided false documentation and arranged flights from Cuba to Serbia, where visas were not required to enter at the time.
From there, “clients” were typically smuggled into neighboring Greece.
“Upon their arrival in Greece, the migrants would either apply for asylum or use further transport to other EU countries organised by the criminals, such as flights to Spain or sea transport to Italy. In order to travel within the EU, the criminal network provided migrants with forged documents or utilised the so-called lookalike method, in which genuine travel documents are stolen and distributed to a migrant closely resembling the real passport holder,” Europol says.
In many cases, children and women were exploited by smugglers, with some being sold to other criminal networks for sexual exploitation.
Authorities believe the smugglers collected around $50 million (45 million EUR) from at least 5,000 illegal migrants.
An investigation is ongoing.