Major Smuggling Network Dismantled

In a joint operation with EUROPOL, officers from the National Police have detained 24 members of a multi-crime network specialised in the smuggling of migrants between Spain and Algeria.

The maritime routes were also used to support fugitives looking to escape justice, and for the introduction and transport of drugs and stolen objects from Spain to Oran. The investigation has its origin in another police operation in which the dismantling of a criminal organisation based in Spain and with cells based in Murcia, Alicante and Almería was carried out.

The group was made up of two perfectly structured criminal organisations under exhaustive coordination. They were based in the province of Alicante, although their scope of action reached other national provinces, mainly Almería, as well as other countries of the Schengen Area, mainly France.

Both organisations followed the same method, using four working groups, each with perfectly diversified, structured and distributed functions and tasks. In collusion with criminal organisations settled in Algeria, they used boats of different sizes to guarantee the illegal entry of immigrants into the national territory, especially accessing through the Almeria coast.

Of the four groups, there was a command group, the top of the pyramid, in charge of organising, coordinating and sharing the tasks of the remaining members of the network. A second group, with transport functions, was in charge of picking up the migrants upon arrival by boat, taking them to Alicante and from there to other Spanish cities or to France. Likewise, there was a third group dedicated to controlling and hiding migrants during their temporary stay in Alicante, providing them with food, drugs and mobile phones. Finally, a fourth group was detected, made up of “money changers” whose role was to finance, providing the necessary money to immigrants to pay for the services requested by traffickers. This dynamic was carried out through the surreptitious “Hawala” money transfer system, based on trust between parties and consisting of the exchange of currencies without a physical movement of money.

These trips were also made from France to Algeria, passing through the cities of Alicante and Almería. Migrants who wished to return through non-authorised posts took this route, thus trying to evade border controls. Likewise, pilots of boats belonging to Algerian networks used this return route and were forced to stay in Spain for a season due to incidents that occurred during their sea voyage.

This network used the method called “shuttle” to carry out the border crossings between Spain and France. The procedure consists of making use of a vehicle that drives in front of the one carrying the migrants in order to alert the police presence and guarantee the success of the transfer.

Travel costs were diverse depending on the point of origin and destination: from Algeria to Almería up to 5,000 euro, from Almería to Alicante between 200 and 600 euro and from Alicante to France between 700 and 1,000 euro.

Thanks to the police operation, the criminal network responsible for trafficking with more than 250 victims in 54 migratory episodes that occurred in recent months has been dismantled. Both organisations provided support to Algerian networks dedicated to migrant smuggling, using the sea route from Oran through Almería and back to Oran. They used the Almeria coast as a point of clandestine entry and return, which favoured the flight to Algeria of immigrants with pending legal cases, fugitives or fugitives who were in Europe.

In addition, the network was dedicated to drug trafficking and the trafficking of stolen objects, items of small size but of high value, introducing into Algeria narcotic substances, such as ecstasy and psychotropic drugs, where their price is up to five times higher than in Spain. They also smuggled various electronic devices such as phones or tablets, jewellery, gold, scooters and watches, acting mainly on the beaches of Alicante and counting on technical specialists to deactivate pagers and trackers. They took advantage of the arrival of boats with immigrants on board to load them with said toxic substances and objects of illicit origin and smuggle them into Oran, where they had a cell of collaborators in charge of their subsequent sale.

The police operation culminated in 24 detainees –Alicante (22), Almería (1) and Jaén (1) – for the alleged crimes of Belonging to a Criminal Organisation, Against the Rights of Foreign Citizens, Against Public Health and Reception. In addition, the agents carried out nine entry and registration procedures in Alicante and four inspections in different commercial establishments in this same city.

In total, more than 40,000 euro in cash was seized -both in euro and Algerian dinars-, four vehicles, three and a half kilos of ecstasy of the substance called “tusi” or colloquially “pink cocaine”, 56 grams of phencyclidine and 710 Packs of smuggled tobacco. Likewise, numerous stolen items were found, such as 61 mobile terminals, three competition bicycles, electric scooters, various electronic devices, various identity documents of third parties, bank cards and numerous documents related to the investigation.