Twenty-nine people suspected of large-scale document forgery, smuggling of irregular migrants and money laundering, have been arrested in Austria, Czech Republic, France, Germany and the United Kingdom, European police agency Europol said.
Additionally, 11 irregular migrants were apprehended for illegal stay in the EU member states.
The organised criminal network, involving people of various nationalities, was involved in the massive production and distribution of falsified or forged documents for the purpose of facilitating illegal immigration.
The part of the criminal network based in Prague was usually falsifying or altering stolen genuine travel documents and was sending them in packages to their accomplices in other European countries, who were even placing regular orders with the forgers.
The forged ID cards, passports and driving licences were subsequently provided to irregular migrants to enter the EU or to legalise their stays there. Payments were settled via Western Union or MoneyGram.
During the operation, which took place on October 22 and disclosed in a Europol statement on November 1, more than 70 searches of houses and other premises were carried out.
A large number of mobile phones, SIM cards, computers, hard disks, forged travel documents, forgery equipment, two handguns, and various bank or supporting documents were seized.
On the action day, Europol deployed a mobile office to Germany to support the operation with on-the-spot intelligence analysis.
The International Coordination Centre was also set up at Europol to support and coordinate the common action.
Throughout the investigation, Europol facilitated the exchange of intelligence, hosted several operational meetings, and provided tailored analytical support to the investigators.
(Photo: Claudia Conrad/Europol)