SPANISH police have arrested 12 suspected members of a sham marriage network.
They are alleged to have facilitated illegal immigration into the European Union by setting up partnerships of convenience between Indian and Pakistani migrants and Romanian nationals.
In an operation backed by Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, Spanish investigators carried out multiple raids on residential and business premises, seizing more than €10,000 in cash along with evidence that indicted those detained were involved in the facilitation of illegal immigration and document fraud.
The arrests took place in Barcelona (7), Mataro (2), Valencia (1), Hospitalet de Llobregat (1) and Sitges (1).
The criminal network orchestrated at least 50 such sham marriages in order for the illegal immigrants to obtain a residence permit, charging €20,000 per migrant for their services. The profits resulting from this criminal activity are estimated at €1 million.
The criminals would either approach migrants already living illegally in the European Union, or arrange for them to be smuggled into Spain from outside the European continent. The criminals would then proceed to recruit women, mainly from Romania, to whom they offered substantial cash payments for pretending to be the spouses of these non-EU citizens who were seeking to formalise their stay in the European Union.
The migrants who used the network’s service would either stay in Spain or move to another EU country upon receiving a residence permit allowing for free movement within the Schengen area. The women involved in these fake marriages would typically return immediately to their home country.
Europol’s European Migrant Smuggling Centre (EMSC) deployed one of its officers during the action day for on-the-spot support to the national investigators, including real-time data exchange and cross-checks against Europol’s databases.