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12th January 2020, 14:18

47 arrested in Gibraltar and Spain in joint Policia Nacional and RGP operation targeting people-trafficking organisation

47 people, including two locals, have been arrested in a joint Policia Nacional and Royal Gibraltar Police operation targeting a people-trafficking organization.

In a statement, the Royal Gibraltar Police say the organised crime group was responsible for trafficking migrants from Morocco into Spain and other European countries. They addover 130 Moroccans had been trafficked into Spain, with each of them charged between €7,000 and €8.000, meaning a profit of over €1 million for the traffickers. The RGP state this has impacted five European countries and 18 Spanish provinces.

The RGP say the investigation began in November 2018, when it noticed an increase in the number of Moroccans arriving in Gibraltar from Casablanca and Tangier using UK short-stay tourist visas, which do not allow legal entry into Schengen countries like Spain.

The police add the crime group comprised a branch in Morocco and one in Gibraltar and La Linea. The Morocco branch targeted prospective migrants, preparing dossiers of fraudulent documents to allow them to obtain the tourist visas. The group would then book flights and accommodation for Gibraltar, and arrange for the migrants to establish contact with those awaiting their arrival on the Rock.

Once in Gibraltar, the traffickers would get the migrants across the frontier using various vehicles. They would then provide temporary housing, and tickets to destinations in Spain or elsewhere, with the migrants charged a further €500 to €700.

The RGP say the organised crime group therefore operated a network of drivers, tax-drivers and others, paid around €100 to €200 per trafficked migrant. Officers estimate the Moroccan branch of the operation made over €1 million in profit, with the Campo de Gibraltar branch netting nearly €80,000.

The RGP say officers assessed the crime group’s complexity, sophistication and efficiency by its ability to counter police surveillance by adapting to changes or replacing members. They add the group also smuggled cigarettes along with the migrants.

The police operation was coordinated by EUROPOL and involved 200 Policia Nacional officers, along with the RGP. Three people - two local men and one Moroccan man - were arrested on the Rock through European Arrest Warrants, with a further 44 arrested in 18 Spanish provinces. The culmination of the investigation saw two homes in La Linea and Gibraltar searched, the latter on the basis of a European Investigation Order. Around €19,000, 12 mobile devices, five vehicles and a number of documents were seized.

The Commissioner of the Royal Gibraltar Police, Ian McGrail, said organised crime is transnational, causes significant harm and affects the stability of communities. He said the RGP was satisfied with the successful outcome of the cross-border police operation. He added the investigation is one visible example of the work that goes on behind the scenes to protect borders from threats to national security, and sends a message that Gibraltar will not allow itself to be used by criminals who exploit the human suffering of migrants for economic benefit.