The Sunday News
Sunday News Reporter
A notorious gang of people smugglers known in Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Swaziland and South Africa was arrested in Ireland in an Interpol operation, the global police coordination agency said Thursday.
The group that cannot be named as they are still to appear in court was the subject of two INTERPOL Red Notices, by Irish, South African and the Zimbabwean police for migrant smuggling, human trafficking and other related crimes.
The Zimbabwean, South African and Nigerian nationals were wanted for heading a major criminal organisation behind the trafficking of Southern African migrants using among others fake visa free South African, Lesotho and Swaziland passports.
Some of the identified migrants were using Zimbabwean and Nigerian passports without any Irish Visas but had in their possession fake Irish Resident permit cards.
Quick action by the Emirates staff led to the arrest of the gang who had been on the global police agency’s radar since 2021 for reportedly smuggling and trafficking a considerable number of migrants.
The group had spotters stationed at various airports in Europe where they facilitated the connection flights to several destinations in Europe.
The arrest came after nearly a year, following a March 2022 meeting that gathered officials from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Turkey, the UAE and the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation, or Europol and Interpol.
“In March 2022, intelligence gathered by INTERPOL’s Human Trafficking and Smuggling of Migrants unit prompted a task force meeting with participants from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Turkey, the UAE, Europol, Interpol and the Regional Operational Centre in support of the Istanbul process and the African Union Initiative,” the statement said.
Carriers in and around Europe have been notified of these activities and any carrier that carries any person without verifying their travel documents will face heavy penalties including ceasing of their operations in European airspace.
This extensive cooperation produced fresh intelligence, enabling UAE officials to thoroughly investigate the groups network and family members, uncovering money laundering activities and leading to South Africa, Nigeria and Zimbabwe, it added.
Arrested in Ethiopia in 2020, one of the re-arrested gang leaders escaped from custody and was sentenced in absentia to life in prison.