Five men, including three Albanians, have been indicted for smuggling illegal migrants from Albania across the English Channel to Britain.
The smuggling ring was dismantled this week after police had been surveilling the “well organised” network since late September, reports France Bleu.
Two Frenchmen and three Albanians charged illegal migrants €6,000 (£5,000) for passage to Britain from the port of Roscoff in the French administrative department of Finistère, Brittany.
The smugglers picked up their human cargo in Albania, and in order to not raise suspicions, smugglers transported the illegals in the backs of cars so as to “blend in with the rest of the traffic flow in Roscoff”.
However, suspicion arose when smugglers began using larger vehicles. A 39-year-old resident of Finistère was pulled over by port police on his way to board a ferry to Britain. Three Albanian migrants, a woman and two men, were found behind furniture at the back of his rented mini van.
A second 43-year-old Finistérien was arrested on his return from Britain, and police began an investigation that led to the arrest of the remaining traffickers – three Albanians aged 19, 20, and 25 – on Wednesday.
All three men are known for theft, violence, and weapons possession. Two are illegal aliens (one was expelled in July but returned, and the other is subject to deportation), and the third had made a request for asylum.
During searches conducted at their homes, police have seized £9,000, €2,330, a balaclava, a 357 Magnum revolver with 18 cartridges, and fifteen grammes of cocaine.
On Friday, all three were indicted for “unauthorised entry, movement or irregular stay of a foreigner” and remanded in custody.
“We currently have five people indicted in this case, four are in custody and one is under judicial control…The investigation has established that there has been a number of vans, often paid for in cash, and many migrants were transported to Britain,” said the prosecutor of Brest, Eric Mathais, during a press conference.
The investigation is ongoing, and French media speculate that what has been uncovered is just the “tip of the iceberg”.
Since the beginning of the migrant crisis, several raids have taken down smuggling gangs across the continent.
In August a Tunisian-born warden of a mosque in Italy was arrested for heading a smuggler gang, as well as for having links to international terrorism. Earlier in November, Spanish police took down a trafficker network who had smuggled at least 6,000 Ukrainians into Britain.