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Migrants paying up to €20,000 to be smuggled into Europe on private aircraft, say police

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By Euronews  with Reuters
The two aircraft seized
The two aircraft seized   -   Copyright  Credit: Europol

Migrants have been paying up to €20,000 to be smuggled into Europe on private aircraft, say police.

They were given fake diplomatic passports and put on flights in Turkey that were supposedly heading to the Caribbean.

But the planes stopped over in Europe, where the migrants -- mainly Iraqi and Iranian of Kurdish origin -- would declare their real identity and claim asylum. 

Investigators have documented five separate landings in Italy, Germany, France, Austria and Belgium between October and December 2020, revealed Europol.

"In addition to migrant smuggling and forging identity documents, the organised crime group is also suspected of issuing false checks and scamming airlines in an attempt to build its own fleet," the agency said in a statement.

"The suspects also allegedly defrauded hotels by not paying the invoices," Europol added.

Five suspects -- three in Rome and two in Brussels -- have now been arrested and the criminal network dismantled.  Two further suspects remain on the run.

In addition to the arrests, two aircraft have been seized worth €426,000, as well as a high-end car and equipment to forge identifications. A total of €253,000 euros was also seized or frozen.