The Organized Crime Unit of the Hellenic Police, with the support of Europol, dismantled an organised criminal group engaged in migrant smuggling and document forgery. The organised crime group smuggled illegal migrants by air from Greece to the United Kingdom, using falsified documents. 20 persons have been arrested in Greece. The planning of the operation started in July 2017.
The police operation took place on 31st October and 1st November 2017. More than 90 Greek Police Officers of the Organized Crime Unit of the Hellenic Police carried out 21 house searches in Athens. The main seizures were:
- Three fully equipped document forgery labs composed;
- Digital equipment: printers and scanners that are related to document forgery;
- Hundreds of boarding passes related to migrant smuggling;
- Dozens of passports and identity cards;
- 61,000 EUR in cash;
Europol supported Operation Taurus by:
- Organising an operational planning meeting at Europol headquarters, upon request of the Greek authorities, with the participation of Germany, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the UK (in alphabetical order).
- Providing tailored analytical support.
- Supporting expertise via Europol staff, deployed to the European Regional Task Force (EURTF) in Piraeus, Greece.
During the Action Day:
- Europol organised a second meeting during the action day of the operation on 31st October.
- Europol coordinated the meeting and brought together investigators from different EU Member States for final arrangements.
- Europol’s Mobile Office was used for cross-checks of the retrieved information against Europol’s databases. In total, 48 phone numbers and 21 names were checked.
Migrant smuggling has emerged as one of the most profitable and widespread criminal activities for organised crime in the EU. The migrant smuggling business is now a large, profitable and sophisticated criminal market, comparable to the European drug markets. Document fraud, as showcased in Operation Taurus, is one of the engines of organised crime in the EU. Although document fraud has no direct impact on most citizens in the EU, it facilitates serious and organised crime as a cross-cutting threat. The importance of document fraud was highlighted by Europol in its European Union (EU) Serious and Organised Crime Threat Assessment (SOCTA) 2017, which is a detailed analysis of the threat of serious and organised crime facing the EU.
The outcome of operation Taurus is exemplary for the fruitful cooperation between Europol and the Hellenic Police. In 2016, Europol’s Executive Director Rob Wainwright and the Chief of the Hellenic Police, Lt. Gen Konstaninos Tsouvalas signed the Greek National Operational Plan, whose main objective is to target organised migration crime in Greece. The Greek National Operation Plan reaffirmed Europol and the Hellenic Police’s mutual commitment and provides a robust framework for the exchange of information between both parties – as successfully shown in Operation Taurus.
Fighting the facilitation of illegal immigration is one of the EMPACT priorities of the European Union. The aim of this priority is to disrupt organised crime groups that facilitate illegal immigration through the main entry points to the EU, and in particular to fight their use of fraudulent documents to abuse legal channels for migration.