47 persons have been arrested during a joint Policia Nacional and Royal Gibraltar Police operation targeting an organised crime group that was trafficking migrants from Morocco to Spain and various other European countries; over 130 trafficked Moroccan nationals have been detected in Spain. Each migrant trafficked from Morocco was charged between 7000-8000 euros, netting the organised crime group over 1 million euros in profit. This illicit activity has impacted on 18 Spanish provinces and five European countries, as a result of which over 200 Policia Nacional officers together with the Royal Gibraltar Police have participated in this operation, all coordinated by EUROPOL. The investigation culminated with the execution of 2 search warrants at residential properties in La Linea and in Gibraltar, the latter on the strength of a European Investigation Order. Approximately 19,000 euros in cash, 12 mobile devices, 5 vehicles and diverse documentation have been seized during these searches.
The investigation was initiated in November 2018, when the Royal Gibraltar Police detected a significant increase in the number of Moroccan travellers arriving in Gibraltar from Casablanca and Tangier using United Kingdom short-stay tourist visas. Such visas are not valid for entry into or transit through any country of the Schengen area, thus holders of such visas could not legally enter Spain.
The organised crime group was comprised of two branches; one in Morocco and the other in Spain’s Campo de Gibraltar (Gibraltar and La Linea de La Concepcion).
In Morocco, prospective migrants were targeted and their travel itineraries organised, following which a dossier containing fraudulent supporting documents was compiled and submitted in order to obtain the requisite United Kingdom Tourist Visa. Once the tourist visa was obtained for each migrant, the organised crime group facilitated the purchase of flight tickets and accommodation reservations for Gibraltar, also issuing migrants with instructions on the steps to take upon arrival at Gibraltar including establishing contact with those awaiting their arrival. Each migrant was charged between 7000-8000 euros in order to procure their visas.
In Gibraltar, traffickers facilitated the clandestine crossing of migrants across the frontier into Spain using various vehicles belonging to members of the organised group, primarily during the hours of darkness to hinder the identification of vehicle occupants. On occasions, migrants would be accommodated in Gibraltar hotels until they could be transported clandestinely into Spain. Once migrants had been successfully smuggled into Spain, they were either housed in a residence belonging to one of the organisation’s ringleaders or in hostels across La Linea de La Concepcion. The day after their entry into Spain, migrants would be provided with coach tickets to destinations across Spain or other European destinations. For their Gibraltar reception, clandestine entry to Spain, temporary accommodation and transportation to their onward destination, migrants were charged an additional 500-700 euros.
The organised crime group operated a logistical network of drivers, taxi-drivers and other collaborators who were remunerated at the rate of between 100-200 euros per trafficked migrant.
Having concluded their investigation, officers have assessed the Moroccan branch of the organised crime group to have derived in excess of 1 million euros profit, with the Campo de Gibraltar branch netting an additional 79,800 euros from their illicit activities.
Throughout the course of the investigation, officers ascertained the organised crime group’s complexity, sophistication and efficiency through the manner in which members employed various security measures in an attempt to counter police surveillance, as well as the group’s flexibility by quickly adapting to unforeseen circumstances, such as promptly replacing members to continue their illicit activities whenever an individual group member was intercepted and arrested. Additionally, the crime group’s Campo de Gibraltar branch was engaged in illicit cigarette smuggling, conducting this activity simultaneously with the smuggling of migrants. At the conclusion of this investigation, over 130 Moroccan nationals have been identified as having successfully entered Spain clandestinely.
The operation to dismantle this complex organised crime group has involved 200 Policia Nacional officers across various Spanish provinces together with officers from the Royal Gibraltar Police, all coordinated by EUROPOL. Three crime group members have been arrested in Gibraltar through the execution of European Arrest Warrants, with a further 44 members arrested in 18 Spanish provinces, all for offences relating to their membership of a criminal organisation and migrant smuggling. Two of these individuals continue remanded in custody pending trial.
The investigation culminated with the execution of 2 search warrants at residential properties in La Linea and Gibraltar, the latter on the strength of a European Investigation Order. Approximately 19,000 euros in cash, 12 mobile devices, 5 vehicles and diverse documentation have been seized during these searches.
“Serious and Organised Crime presents a serious threat to National Security, as highlighted in the United Kingdom National Security Strategy. This is equally applicable to jurisdictions worldwide, including Gibraltar. Organised Crime is inherently transnational, causes significant harm and affects the stability of communities. We are therefore satisfied with the successful outcome of our joint operation with the CNP (Cuerpo Nacional de Policia) which has made possible the identification and dismantling of an organised crime group operating on both sides of the border. This cross-border police cooperation serves to underline just how seriously the RGP views threats of this nature, and how seriously we take our responsibilities to thwart activities that pose serious risks to the community.
This investigation is one visible example of the type of work that goes on behind the scenes to protect our borders from threats to national security. It also sends a message that Gibraltar will not allow itself to be used by unscrupulous criminals who exploit the human suffering of migrants for economic benefit. Organized crime has a huge impact on society at large, we are therefore duty bound to counteract activities which pose a risk to our community with all the policing instruments at our disposal.”