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Helped by cross-border intel, Spain arrests Chinese people traffickers using Gib airport

Archive photo by Johnny Bugeja.

Spanish police arrested a Chinese gang that allegedly trafficked people through Gibraltar airport to the UK using fake documents, in an operation supported by intelligence shared by the Royal Gibraltar Police.

In a statement issued Monday by Spain’s Ministry of the Interior, the Policia Nacional said Chinese nationals were first facilitated entry into Spain and later held in cramped, unsanitary conditions before being transported to La Linea and then into Gibraltar to board flights to London.

According to the statement, up to 250 people may have been illegally trafficked using this route.

The Spanish statement made no mention of this but prior to the arrests, the RGP had shared intelligence with Spain’s Policia Nacional over suspected immigration offences involving Chinese nationals.

“The RGP can confirm that in recent months, it participated in a number of intelligence exchanges as part of its support to the [Policia Nacional] investigation into an organised crime group operating between China, Spain, Gibraltar and the U.K,” an RGP spokesperson told the Chronicle, adding no further detail.

According to the Spanish statement, police in Madrid and La Linea arrested 14 people and seized fake travel documents and drugs worth one million euros in the operation.

According to the Policia Nacional, the gang facilitated entry by air and land into Spain, where it had established a network of hideouts where migrants would be kept for weeks at a time in “awful” conditions.

The migrants, who were “treated like cargo”, were eventually taken to La Linea and provided with fake travel documents before crossing into Gibraltar, the Policia Nacional statement said.

Using criminal contacts in Turkey, the gang falsified passports complete with visas and immigration stamps from Schengen and non-EU countries, relying at times too on genuine documents belonging to others who bore resemblance to the migrants.

“They used these false documents so the migrants could fraudulently enter Spain and remain here while awaiting their subsequent clandestine transit to the United Kingdom,” the Spanish statement said.

The gang was also allegedly involved in drug trafficking, primarily ketamine and MDMA.

“The operation began after a continuous influx of Chinese migrants was detected in La Línea de la Concepción, who were then entering Gibraltar with the intention of reaching the United Kingdom,” the statement said.

“The investigation has resulted in 14 arrests, four in Madrid and 10 in La Línea de la Concepción, on suspicion of belonging to a criminal organisation, facilitating illegal immigration, offences against public health, and document forgery.”

During the operation, Spanish police raided a property in Madrid and seized visas and fake passports, over 400 grams of ketamine and MDMA, weighing scales and paraphernalia associated with drugs supply, a fake Japanese immigration stamp, various electronic devices, four mobile phones and diverse documentation.

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