Dismantled: Two criminal organizations dedicated to aiding illegal immigration by organizing bogus marriages

An investigations, conducted by the specialists of the Organized Crime Investigation Group of the Economic-Financial Police Unit of Messina, under the direction of the Peloritana Anti-Mafia District Attorney, have allowed to shed light on a structured illicit system, aimed at organizing fictitious marriages between citizens Italians and foreigners (Moroccans, Algerians and Tunisians), with the aim of obtaining the residence card for family reasons, essential for entry and / or stay in the territory of the Italian State, or to “heal” the position of those recipients of Expulsion Decrees from the State, already issued by the Prefecture and made executive by the Police Headquarters. In particular, the investigations found their genesis in singular false declarations made by Italian citizens to public officials about their personal qualities, with specific reference to the status of celibate / single. Therefore, targeted investigations were launched that made it possible to detect, right from the start, anomalous recurrences compared to numerous so-called “Mixed marriages”: repetition of foreign wedding witnesses and / or interpreters, repeated relationships between witnesses and spouses, such as to hypothesize the existence of a real criminal association aimed at the illicit organization of the aforementioned marriages.

What hypothesized was therefore punctual in the outcome of more penetrating judicial police activities, arranged by the Messina Public Prosecutor’s Office, also through technical investigations and documentary acquisitions. In detail, the unequivocal operation of two proven criminal organizations emerged, active for some time in Messina and with consolidated ramifications in Morocco, headed by two Moroccan citizens: EAA known as Samir cl. 84 and CA called Abraham cl. 69.

In fact, it was the two Moroccans who specifically dealt with organizing the trips to Morocco of the fictitious spouses, assisting the betrothed during the processing of all the bureaucratic procedures, before and after the fictitious marriage: from publications to wedding ceremony, up to the final stage when, having obtained the illicit purpose, the separation and divorce proceeded.

The two international wedding planners, however, did not work alone, being able to count on a structured organization, articulated on several levels, with interchangeable roles according to needs:

  • a first level, made up of trusted collaborators, all Moroccans, EHO cl. 83, EY cl. 90, SKO cl. 83, EFR cl. 65, RI cl. 71 and EAEH cl. 78, in charge:
    • to recruit false spouses (when contacted by other Moroccans in search of a false bride, the dialogues were activated by referring to Italian women as “sheep” “… there is a gentleman who asked me if there are any sheep … a gentleman here in Messina, there is a friend of his who wants to come … “);
    • to take care of the fulfillment of the bureaucratic procedures relating to the preparation of the marriage and the subsequent phases necessary for obtaining the documentation in favor of non-EU citizens.

In this context, there are also stable references in Moroccan territory, deputies to assist the activity of issuing the documents necessary for the celebration of marriages in Morocco, at the Consulate General of Italy in Casablanca, such as the Moroccan citizen ZL called Sara cl. 69 and the daughter LM cl. 94;

  • a second level, made up of devoted wedding witnesses and interpreters;
  • a third level, finally, represented by a dense network of Italian subjects, mainly women, in disadvantaged conditions (“… because when the wolf is hungry it comes out of its den …”, this is how a suspect expressed himself to solicit acceptance of the fictitious marriage addressing a woman who showed signs of resipiscence), who were involved, at first, to be destined for a false wedding, and then, subsequently, they became a flywheel for new illegal business, such as recruiters of additional subjects to be directed towards further false marriages: the Italians TA cl. 75, BL cl. 65, VR cl. 91, OA cl. 95, AA cl. 92, GS cl. 97, AE cl. 97.

On this point, the absolute absence of any sense of the State on the part of the compatriots is striking, who do not hesitate to minimize the illegality of their behavior, considering how everything is reduced to a mere “sheet” on which to affix some signature, to get “Italian citizenship” to those who are not entitled to it.

In other words, the Fiamme Gialle Peloritane found that nothing was left to chance, in an infinite spiral of the offense, certainly in existence since 2016 and still active. Before reaching the stipulation of the marriage contract, in fact, it was found that the organizers adopted every possible precaution to accredit the fictitious cohabitation of the newlyweds: hence the need to identify a room to be used as a “marital home”, so that both the spouses bring their respective registered residence there. In this regard, it was the leaders themselves who gave advice on how to behave with the investigators of the Traffic Police during the verification of cohabitation.

Continuing, after the celebration of the wedding, which obviously did not include any celebration (except for a few sporadic cases in which a fictitious party was simulated), the non-EU citizen requested a residence permit from the competent Office of the Messina Police Headquarters. The staff of the Immigration Office of the Messina Police Headquarters, therefore, in order to examine the request, usually called the couple to ask some questions about their relationship, their knowledge and anything else useful to verify the veracity of the marital union.

Also on this aspect, strengthened by the consolidated know-how acquired, the organizers intervened directly, reaching the point of indoctrinating the spouses on the answers to be provided. Even the purchase of wedding rings, found at a cost of € 1 from Chinese shops, was managed by the organization, to be then supplied to the newlyweds. Likewise, it was documented that everything had a specific standardized cost, according to a pre-established rate: € 10,000.00 paid by the foreigner to the organization, in cash or through Money Transfer services, physically performed by subjects apparently not involved in the affair but contiguous to members of the criminal association; € 2,000.00 / 3,000.00 to the fictitious spouse; lower sums for intermediaries, wedding witnesses and interpreters, all for a turnover documented during the investigation of over € 160,000.00. Through the competent central offices of the General Command of the Guardia di Finanza and the Service for International Police Cooperation of the Central Directorate of the Criminal Police, one of the recipients of the measure was located in Germany, precisely in the Frankfurt am Main area, where similar operations are underway by the collateral police body, with the execution of a specific European Arrest Warrant requested by the Messina Anti-Mafia District Directorate.

The executive phase also sees the participation of the canine units of the Messina Guardia di Finanza Group and the “Volpe 311” helicopter of the Air Section of the Aeronavale Operations Department of the Palermo Guardia di Finanza. In conclusion, with today’s operation, the Court, the District Anti-Mafia Directorate and the Guardia di Finanza of Messina, brought to justice two fierce criminal organizations, characterized by “alarming professionalism and whirlwind repetitiveness”, dedicated to aiding illegal immigration or to the illegal entry / stay in the territory of the State of subjects who do not have any suitable qualification, recovering a large space of legality, now returned to the honest community.