Dozens of properties were raided in Germany and Romania as part of a joint investigation into a massive human trafficking ring based in the western Romanian city of Timişoara.
The investigators captured one of the leaders of the Romanian group in the sweep. According to Romanian police, the gang was well organised, arranging both transport and accommodation from the migrants. The members of the group were part of a network of migrant traffickers established at European level, with national chapters in each of the transit states on the migration route.
The refugees illegally entered Romania from Serbia, having already passed through Bulgaria and Turkey, and were transported to Timişoara, where they were accommodated in different hostels in the area before being smuggled to Western Europe. Migrants paid between 4,000 and 5,000 euros per person for transport and lodgings.
Each of the national chapters was coordinated by a regional leader, who only spoke to their “subordinates” via encrypted messaging apps like Whatsapp and Viber.
In order to avoid detection, group members used state-of-the-art technical devices, mobile heavy-duty tracking applications, GPS, and cars with registration numbers from different countries.
In Romania, the action was organised by anti-mafia prosecutors, officers from the National Anticorruption Directorate and the organized crime police.
“It is a joint investigation team with the German and British authorities. A contingent from Europol is involved. It is an important action because we are trying to stop the phenomenon from the beginning, in order not to let the problem spread to other countries,” said Daniel Horodniceanu, the head of DIICOT.
In Germany, searches were made by officers of the Bundeskriminalamt, a police unit specialised in the fight against organised crime.
Timişoara has developed the reputation of a refugee trafficking hub over the past year with the number of refugees from Syria, Iran, Afghanistan and other Central Asian countries increasing exponentially there since Hungary tightened its border with Serbia.