LONDON: A criminal gang using speedboats to smuggle illegal immigrants into Europe and extract wanted criminals to Africa has been dismantled by Spanish police.
In order to make maximum profit, the gang would sneak migrants from North Africa into Europe, and then fill boats with suspected criminals and stolen goods for the return trip.
The gang charged 5,000 euros ($5,665) per person for both inbound and return journeys, The Telegraph reported, and extra fees were added the further into Europe people wanted to go.
The highly organized network used Spain as its primary European destination and rigid inflatable boats with powerful motors to quickly make the 124-mile crossing to Europe.
The gang members “knew to perfection” Spain’s Cabo de Gata coastline of isolated inlets, allowing them to evade detection. “They used to send many boats at the same time, sometimes up to 10, so that if one was intercepted the others could reach Spain without any problems,” the officer in charge of the operation to dismantle the gang said.
They would also smuggle tobacco to Europe alongside the immigrants.
After refueling and on the way back to North Africa, they would load their boats with stolen goods and wanted criminals. “Fugitives from justice who came from Spain, France, or Italy” would be transported while “avoiding port or airport controls,” the officer told Spanish newspaper El Pais.
“These are criminals who had committed all kinds of crimes in Europe, from robberies with force to homicides, and who did not want to be arrested in Europe,” the officer added.
Following a seven-month investigation, 24 people were arrested last month. Police recovered more than 40,000 euros in cash, four vehicles, 3.5 kilograms of a variety of the drug ecstasy known as pink cocaine, 61 mobile phones, stolen identity documents, and bank cards.