10 April 2018
Joint Eurojust/Europol press release
A group of EU and non-EU nationals, known to be active since 2016, are suspected of having committed the crimes of migrant smuggling and participation in an organised crime group (OCG). Eleven suspects, including the main leaders of the group, were placed under preventive measures in Romania and Austria in a joint action that began on Friday 6 April and continued through today. Nineteen premises were searched in Romania and 5 premises and an automobile were searched in Austria, and documents, mobile telephones and cash were seized during the joint action days, coordinated by Eurojust and Europol.
The OCG initiated and orchestrated numerous illegal transports of migrants originating from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria and Iraq. Charging a fee ranging from EUR 1 500 to 7 000 per person, they have been smuggling people through Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia and Hungary, who sought asylum mainly in Austria and Germany, but also in Italy and France. In 2017 alone, the OCG was responsible for six large-scale transports of migrants from Romania to Austria that were intercepted by the national law enforcement authorities. More than 180 migrants were smuggled in 2017 by this OCG.
The OCG had a three-level structure. The first level, composed of OCG members located in Romania and several other countries, was acting directly under the leaders, and was specialised in the fraudulent entry of migrants into Romania, their accommodation, and their transfer to the Romanian frontier, from where they crossed the border on trucks or were guided on foot to other EU Member States. The second level consisted of OCG members tasked with the transport of migrants, the cross-border transfer of smaller migrant groups, and the recruitment of additional smugglers. The truck drivers represented the third level of the OCG’s organisation.
Today’s operation by the Romanian Directorate for Investigation of Organized Crime and Terrorism and the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Graz was supported by Eurojust, which facilitated the setting up and financing of operational activities of a joint investigation team (JIT) between Romania, Austria and Slovenia.
To determine the best possible strategy for bringing the OCG to justice, judicial and law enforcement officials of six countries attended two coordination meetings at Eurojust. As a result, Eurojust was requested to set up a coordination centre, allowing for the real-time exchange of information and large-scale multilateral actions required. Cooperation with Europol and with the Southeast European Law Enforcement Center (SELEC), as well as the detection of the suspect’s movements within the European Union via the Schengen Information System, further contributed to the positive outcome.