Dismantled a transnational criminal network that illegally introduced migrants of Pakistani origin aboard trucks into the European Union

The Spanish National Police, in collaboration with the police of Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Italy, Greece and Romania, and under the auspices of EUROPOL and EUROJUST, has dismantled an active transnational criminal network that it allegedly introduced in an irregular manner into the European Union migrants of Pakistani origin.

The organization used the so-called “Balkan Route” to transport migrants in trucks not authorized to transport people, in subhuman conditions and with serious risk to their lives. The agents have been able to verify that the network would have allowed the arrival to the European Union of at least 400 migrants with an economic benefit of more than two million euros only in recent months, knowing that the organization had been operating in Europe for several years, so the total number of migrants smuggled in would be much higher. The investigation has ended with 15 people arrested in various European countries: Spain (12), Romania (1), Croatia (1) and Slovenia (1). Nine of them have entered provisional prison, including the leader of the network.

The investigation, directed by the Central Investigation Court No. 6 and promoted by the Prosecutor’s Office of the National High Court, began with the arrest in the Republic of Slovenia of a Spanish citizen who was driving a truck carrying 53 migrants of origin. Pakistani in an irregular situation. Investigations carried out over more than nine months have revealed the existence of a transnational criminal organization with a presence in Pakistan, Greece, Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Italy and Spain – where the largest substructure was located – dedicated to the execution material for human trafficking operations on board trucks.

The Balkan Route

The dismantled network is considered one of the most prominent and active dedicated to trafficking in persons of Pakistani origin. In coordination with the traffickers located at the point of origin, it was specialized in the organization, planning and execution of the last leg of the migratory journey of the people trafficked to a European country, using the route known as “Balkan”. 

Once the migrants reached the refugee camp located in the Bosnian town of Bihac, they were guided by “passers” from the organization to cross the mountains that separate Bosnia from Croatia on foot, and from there they were transferred in the boxes of trucks from barely eight square meters -which came from Spanish territory and were rented- to the border with Slovenia. 

In order to get around that border control, the migrants got out of the trucks and crossed on foot through places where they were not detected. Already in Slovenian territory they would get back on the vehicles to continue to Italy. Subsequently, from Italy, the migrants were transferred, by different means, to the country of final destination within the European Union, in secondary internal movements. Among those final destinations, Spain and Germany stand out.

The truck drivers had the support of other members of the organization from the world of drug trafficking who, aboard “shuttle” cars, alerted them to possible police controls and provided them with an alternative route.  

77 people in eight square meters 

As a result of the investigation of the agents of the National Police, in collaboration with the Slovenian and Croatian police forces, it has been possible to thwart the latest human trafficking operation attributable to the organization by intercepting, at a point near the border between Croatia and Bosnia , a truck that transported 77 people of Pakistani origin in a cabin of just eight square meters. The migrants, including four minors, traveled crowded in subhuman conditions and had been forced to make several holes in the ceiling to breathe, so the police action avoided what could have been a “tragedy”. 

The criminal organization charged each migrant 3,000 euros if the agreed route was Bosnia-Slovenia, or between 5,000 and 8,000 euros in the case of the Bosnia-Italy route, having to pay new amounts to continue their journey to the other destination countries. Thus, the total cost of the trip from Pakistan to the final destination in Europe could range between 12,000 and 20,000 euros.

Leader arrested in Romania

The leader and head of the organization alternated his residence between Pakistan, Spain, France and Romania. In fact, he had been organizing human trafficking operations from Pakistan since October 2020, but at the beginning of March he returned to Europe. After a laborious work carried out by the agents of the National Police, who had the collaboration of the Interior Attaché of the Embassy of Spain in Romania and the Romanian authorities, the leader was located in the Romanian town of Craiova, where he had a property. Several agents traveled to that place to collaborate with the Romanian police in entering and searching the home where the detainee was found. Once in Spain, and after taking a statement from him in court, his entry into prison was decreed.