Police in Italy and the UK have arrested a gang of people smugglers who modified documents acquired from Italian citizens to smuggle Albanian nationals into the UK.
A 42-year-old Albanian man and his wife were arrested in Kent, south-east England, by the Metropolitan Police as part of an operation led by Italian police and codenamed ‘Tower Bridge.’
For a fee of £8,500 (€9,500), the racket’s leader and his 37-year-old Slovakian wife, who coordinated the British side of the criminal gang’s operation, allegedly facilitated illegal entry into the UK of several Albanian migrants.
Half a dozen Italian citizens were also complicit, according to a statement by Italy’s police.
Police said the Italians illegally supplied their passports, which were then modified with a photo of the person trying to enter the UK, for a fee of between €500 and €2,000. Once the Albanian nationals had illegally entered the UK, the documents would be returned to the Italian owners.
The Italians involved, both men and women, were targeted based on their physical attributes. Other Italian citizens would accompany the Albanians on the journey to avoid attracting suspicion.
The gang leader allegedly supervised every aspect of the journey from a distance while his wife dealt with integrating the new arrivals in the UK.
The 42-year-old Albanian leader and his Slovakian wife were arrested in Kent earlier this month.