By Biodun Busari
The Italian police said five people were arrested in Rome and Brussels – the capital cities of Italy and Belgium respectively for smuggling migrants from Turkey to western Europe.
It said, on Wednesday, the smugglers perpetrated the illegal migrations via private jet in trips costing around €10,000.
Reuters reports that the suspects were held on warrants issued by Belgian authorities, following the allegations that they belong to a criminal organisation aimed at abetting illegal immigration.
The police statement said the suspects would give migrants fake diplomatic ID papers from St. Kitts and Nevis and put them on aircraft headed to the Caribbean state with a stopover in Europe.
Upon landing in an European airport, the migrants, described as mostly ethnic Kurds or Iraqis, would get off, declare their real identity and file for asylum, Italian police said.
According to investigators, who documented five separate landings in Italy, Germany, France, Austria and Belgium between October and December 2020, each migrant paid about €10,000 for the journey.
The suspects were arrested following joint investigations by police forces from the five European countries, with help from the United States authorities and European Union agencies Europol and Eurojust.
A police chief Costantino Scudieri said the suspects include three men – an Italian and two Egyptians detained in Rome, while another Egyptian and a Tunisian woman nabbed in Brussels,
It further says two more suspects are still at large in Italy and Belgium while the Belgian police have seized two private jets worth €426,000 in the ongoing operation.