LECCE – ten thousand euros each for the price of a new life. The cost of crossing the sea. Trafficking of migrants along the Balkan route: 29 prison precautions issued by the Anti-Mafia Directorate of Catanzaro. Among the suspects is also a man of foreign origin residing in Lecce: a 40-year-old Iraqi national. The operation, conducted by state police, began at dawn today and has dismantled a cross-border organization – made up mainly of Iraqi Kurdish citizens – dedicated to aiding illegal immigration and laundering money from the “Flights of Hope” payments.
The dangerous crossings from the shores of Thessaloniki in Greece, which, during four years of investigations, have seen thousands of migrants cross the waters of the Mediterranean on sailing ships piloted by smugglers always departing from the countries of the Soviet bloc. About thirty episodes around those that have been confirmed. As emphasized in the official memorandum by Prefect Francesco Messina – Central Director of Crime Prevention of the State Police – the group is alleged to have created a real system of illegal reception which thought not only of the flight, but also of the initial reception and waiting food transport of migrants in Central and Northern Europe.
The investigative activity was carried out by Catanzaro Dda, the Central Directorate for Crime Prevention and the Crotone mobile team. Furthermore, colleagues from mobile teams took part in the capital of Salento, along with Brindisi, Foggia, Grosseto, Imperia, Milan, Turin and Trieste. With the participation of employees of the Europol agency and the Interpol department from Turkey, Greece, Belgium, Germany, Sweden, England, Morocco and Belgium.
A little over a year ago, a Mexican offensive against human trafficking from Salento began: the financiers of Gecko – the investigation group for organized crime – in the course of the operation called “Astrolabio” focused their attention on forty suspects between Italy, Turkey, Albania and Greece, all accused of organizing cruises to the coast of Salento .
The actions taken during the day stem from an investigation launched in 2018, on the occasion of an activity of the Financial Police in Crotone regarding a series of landings. Through evidence, including the same statements the immigrants had made, investigators tracked down a job Collection: Transporting humans to the coasts of Puglia and Calabria, using partners and logistical bases on the Greek and Turkish coasts. The migrants’ journey began in the Turkish neighborhood of Aksaray: this is where those wishing to leave went, to connect with Turkish cell accomplices. She provided all the useful information on the organization of the trip and the amount to be paid: an average of 10 thousand euros, you pay through the system called hawalaan intricate and poetic network of monetary ‘relays’ spread across the Middle East.
Once the first part of the sum due was paid, the migrants were escorted to Thessaloniki to be cared for by the Greek group: the migrants were paid the remainder of the journey. Transferred to Athens, then to Patras, the migrants waited to board sailboats capable of evading law enforcement checks at sea. But not just Thessaloniki. In some cases, voyages towards the coasts of Salento started from Smyrna on the Turkish coast.
Almost immediately after landing in Italy, the immigrants made contact with local cell partners. For a fee of around €500 and €600, they help foreign nationals get to Milan or Turin, then proceed to Trieste or Ventimiglia depending on which Northern European city is chosen as their final destination. Crossing the Italian border was done by traveling on trucks, trains or taxis, depending on the economic availability of the migrants.
Without confirmation of payment, migrants were blocked and invited to contact relatives back home to regularize their situation. During the investigation, items also emerged regarding alleged cases of money laundering: it was paid into a common fund managed by some individuals residing in Trieste. A number of suspicious transactions were encountered using the system money transfer, where the committed officers of the partners transferred the funds. Investigations are still ongoing, and European arrest warrants will be implemented in the next few hours.
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