Joint European operation busts Sri Lankan people smugglers

Feb 10, Brussels: A joint operation by several European judicial authorities has busted a Sri Lankan criminal network involved in human smuggling and arrested 27 suspects in three European countries, the Europol, the law enforcement agency of the European Union said in a press release Friday.

According to Europol, on 6 February, judicial authorities and officers from the Finnish Border Guard, French Police (O.C.R.I.E.S.T) and Belgian Federal Police, ran a joint operation against a Sri Lankan criminal network.

The network is suspected of facilitating the illegal entry of people from Sri Lanka to France, frequently using a route through the United Arab Emirates, Kenya, Tanzania, Turkey and Finland.

So far, the authorities have arrested and interrogated 27 suspects in Finland, France and Belgium.

The main target of the operation was a suspect named Saran who was arrested on Sunday in France. Following the arrest Saran has been interrogated at the Tribunal de Grande Instance of Paris and charged with facilitating illegal immigration.

Searches conducted by Europol in the member states have led to the seizure of documentary evidence and goods.

Over 100 officers from Finland, France and Belgium have been involved in the operation resulted over a year of joint international efforts at police and judicial level, supported by Eurojust and Europol.

The investigation into the criminal network has been launched when the Finnish Border Guards in December 2010 arrested two females with counterfeit Indian passports and an Indian male at Helsinki Vantaa airport.

The preliminary investigation has led to the discovery of an active crime network facilitating the smuggling of illegal immigrants from Sri Lanka into the EU.

According to Europol, some of the illegals used totally counterfeit British passports produced in Thailand to travel to Canada. So far over 50 facilitations were discovered in the course of this investigation.

Following the preliminary investigations by the Finnish authorities, a joint investigation team (JIT) of Finnish and French authorities with Europol was established in September 2011.

Eurojust, an European agency cooperating with judicial matters, and Europol will continue to follow the developments of the related investigations to analyze the results of the operation and ensure the best outcome at judicial level, the Europol statement said.

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