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Major raid against smugglers – searches in Frankfurt |

The police launched a major raid against suspected smugglers. Ten suspects were arrested. There were also searches in Hesse.

The Düsseldorf public prosecutor’s office arrested ten suspects in a large-scale raid against an international smuggling gang in eight federal states.

More than 1,000 federal police and public prosecutors have been involved in the operation since early morning. Apartments were also searched in Frankfurt. No one was arrested, said a spokesman for the Düsseldorf public prosecutor’s office. No weapons were found in the five apartments. Another search was in Oberursel (Hochtaunus).

Residence permits for money

A total of 101 residential and business premises were searched nationwide, including two law firms, as the Federal Police Directorate in Sankt Augustin near Bonn announced on Wednesday. Accordingly, the investigation is currently directed against 38 suspected gang members and 147 other people who are said to have been trafficked by the gang. The focus of the investigation was in North Rhine-Westphalia, where the ten accused were also arrested.

According to the Federal Police Directorate in Sankt Augustin, the main suspects are two 42 and 46 year old lawyers from the Cologne area. They are said to have recruited wealthy foreign nationals – primarily from China and the Arab world – through their law firms in order to obtain residence permits for them by taking advantage of special rules for foreign skilled workers. The smugglers would have had to pay between 30,000 and 350,000 euros for this.

Bribed district employees

The residence permits were obtained from the immigration offices of several cities and district administrations in North Rhine-Westphalia, it said. The ten arrested suspects also include an employee of the Düren district who is said to have played a key role in the smuggling and received bribes for it.

The accused are therefore suspected of having used the money to, among other things, set up fake companies, fake wage payments and finance alleged residences – the Federal Police speak of two castles in the Eifel, for example. According to the investigation, they obtained “not inconsiderable amounts” in this way.

Assets secured

There were raids in North Rhine-Westphalia, Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg, Berlin, Rhineland-Palatinate, Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria and Hesse. According to a spokesman, in addition to Frankfurt and Oberursel, the locations were Solingen, Hamburg, Cologne, Munich, Düsseldorf, Berlin and Aachen.

Assets were also seized, including 210,000 euros in cash, and evidence was also searched for. A total of 269 bank accounts were blocked and 31 properties were given a security mortgage.

30 percent more smuggling

Smuggling refers to helping people enter Germany illegally, usually in exchange for money. This involves driving services, false documents, travel organization or accommodation. Unauthorized entry and stay are punishable under the Residence Act.

Anyone who is in this country without the required residence permit must leave the federal territory. There are prison sentences of between one and 15 years for commercial smuggling.

In 2022, the Federal Criminal Police Office and Federal Police registered 4,936 cases of smuggling across Germany – an increase of almost 30 percent compared to the previous year. The background is the sharp increase in irregular migration to Europe. The current smuggling crime situation report from 2022 states that the perpetrators are acting “very professionally and flexibly” and that there is also an increasing willingness to take risks.

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