Lankan people-smuggling ring busted in Europe

A year-long joint international operation came to an end last week when judicial authorities and officers from the Finnish Border Guard, French Police and Belgian Federal Police bust a Sri Lankan criminal network suspected of human smuggling.

The network was suspected of facilitating the illegal entry of people from Sri Lanka into France, frequently using a route via the United Arab Emirates, Kenya, Tanzania, Turkey and Finland, the Sri Lanka Embassy in Brussels said.

The operation was the result of more than a year of joint international efforts at police and judicial level, supported by Eurojust and Europol. So far, a total of 27 suspects have been arrested and interrogated in Finland, France and Belgium. The main suspectwas arrested last Sunday in Saran, France, and has been subsequently charged with facilitating illegal immigration. In addition, 23 searches were conducted within the Member States involved, where documentary evidence and goods were seized.

The investigation is still ongoing, involving over 100 officers from Finland, France and Belgium. The case originated from an investigation initiated by the Finnish Border Guard in December 2010, after the arrival at Helsinki Vantaa airport of two females with counterfeit Indian passports, accompanied by an Indian male.

Preliminary investigations uncovered a very active, organised crime group facilitating illegal immigrants from Sri Lanka into the European Union. Some of the illegal immigrants used forged British passports produced in Thailand, to travel to Canada. So far, over 50 facilitations have been discovered in the course of this investigation.

A joint investigation team (JIT) composed of Finnish and French authorities, with Europol participation, was established during a coordination meeting at Eurojust in September 2011. The JIT legal framework allowed a prompt exchange of information to be used for judicial purposes, without the need for lengthy rogatory procedures, the Sri Lanka Embassy said quoting Europol.

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