Crime: Raid against smugglers in North Rhine-Westphalia continues

Crime: Raid against smugglers in North Rhine-Westphalia continues

One day wasn’t enough: today the police are once again using a large force against a smuggling gang that specializes in wealthy people from China.

The raid against an international smuggling gang that began on Wednesday in eight federal states continued today in North Rhine-Westphalia.

Around 600 officers from the federal police and public prosecutor’s office have searched a total of 116 properties, mostly apartments, since the morning, a federal police spokesman said. It was about the same mission as on Wednesday: “That couldn’t be dealt with in one day.”

Ten arrest warrants were executed on Wednesday, and an eleventh suspect against whom an arrest warrant was issued is still absconding. Today the focus was on securing evidence and also on identifying people who were suspected of being smuggled. The aim is to find out whether those suspected of being trafficked actually lived at the alleged addresses, said the spokesman. Three suspected smugglers were taken into custody. In total, the number of apartments and business premises searched increased to 221.

The gang is said to have specialized in rich people from China and Oman. According to the investigation, arranging a residence permit in individual cases cost up to 360,000 euros.

1.2 million euros in cash confiscated

According to the information, the apartments searched since 6 a.m. were in Bergheim, Bonn, Düren, Düsseldorf, Frechen, Hürtgenwald, Inden, Jülich, Kerpen, Cologne, Kaarst, Linnich, Meerbusch, Merzenich, Mülheim an der Ruhr, Ratingen, Solingen and Swisttal. The clear focus is the Düren area, said the spokesman. In the city center of Düren, the police searched apartments in several houses next to each other after a dpa reporter observed them. An employee of the district administration was arrested in the city near Aachen on Wednesday.

The Federal Police spokesman said that 1.2 million euros in cash were confiscated during the measures yesterday and today, as well as three high-quality cars and more than 300 cell phones, laptops and other electronic devices. There are also 600 file folders and much more.

Accusation: Gang and commercial smuggling of foreigners

According to the authorities, an international smuggling gang was dismantled during the raid on Wednesday. The main suspects are two 42 and 46 year old lawyers from the Cologne area. The accusation is of gang and commercial smuggling of foreigners as well as bribery and corruption of employees of local authorities. Commercial smuggling carries a prison sentence of up to 15 years.

According to the investigators, the financially strong foreigners – including from South Africa and India – were recruited via a so-called “residency program” on the Internet. Not only was Germany’s health and education system advertised there, but German citizenship was also promised. Special rules of the Residence Act for the self-employed and skilled workers were exploited.

The origin of the investigation was a tip from the German Consulate General in Canton, China, as well as numerous reports of suspected money laundering by banks. The investigation was started in 2020, but some of the crimes occurred in 2016/2017, it was said. An employee of the Federal Police who noticed an increase in questionable visa applications is said to have got the ball rolling. A subsequent warning to the immigration authorities then revealed further abnormalities. Federal Police President, Dieter Romann, said on Thursday: “I would like to thank everyone involved, including the Federal Police’s document and visa advisors, who gave the first information about the process.”

Source: Stern

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