A criminal network smuggled and registered Moldovan workers in France with fake documents while keeping their real passports as a guarantee, an investigation by the French, Romanian and Moldovan police has revealed.
Officers have dismantled an organized crime group involved in migrant smuggling, human trafficking for labor exploitation, document fraud, social benefit fraud and money laundering, Europol said in a statement Thursday.
They carried out simultaneous raids in France, Romania and Moldova on February 22, and searched 51 locations, 17 in France, 14 in Romania and 20 in Moldova.
A total of 28 arrests were made in France, three in Romania and seven in Moldova.
Some 15 high-end cars, 2 jet skis, weapons, phones, about 100,000 euros in cash were seized and 11 bank accounts were frozen.
The investigation into the criminal network started in 2018 when officers in France intercepted a van transporting ten irregular migrants who were Moldovan nationals and a number of them had counterfeit Romanian identity cards.
The criminal group was organized by a Romanian national living in France, smuggled at least 40 Moldovan nationals to exploit them in the construction business in France.
The criminal network provided the irregular migrants with counterfeit Romanian identity cards and driving licenses while keeping their real passports as a guarantee.
Most of the smuggled individuals were had a low level of education and therefore were more vulnerable to exploitation.
They worked 55 hours a week for €60 a day. Large construction and renovation companies were also involved in the criminal scheme. This activity was extremely lucrative, with illegal profits estimated at almost 14 million euros.
Suspects laundered the criminal assets through eight shell companies, most of them based in France.
The investigation was carried out by the French Border Police as part of the National Police Romanian Police, Moldovan Police, supported by Europol and Eurojust.
Europol facilitated the exchange of information and provided analytical support. On the action day, Europol deployed a virtual command post to enable the real-time exchange of information between investigators, Europol and Eurojust.
Europol’s analysts also cross-checked operational information against Europol’s databases to provide leads to investigators in the field.
The investigation was developed as part of a Joint Investigation Team set up by Eurojust between
France, Romania and Moldova, signed in May 2020.