UK & World News
Chinese Human Trafficking Ring Bust In Europe
Spanish and French police have busted a human trafficking ring smuggling Chinese migrants into Europe and the US.
A total of 75 suspects, including two "main operatives" based in Barcelona, were arrested, the authorities said on Saturday.
Officers in Spain arrested 51 people and the other 24 were picked up in France, according to a police statement.
The string of arrests follows a two-year, joint investigation in the two countries.
Police said the traffickers charged 40-50,000 euros (£34-43,000) per person to provide "false identities and transport Chinese citizens to the United States and countries such as Spain, France, Greece, Italy, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Turkey".
Spanish police seized 81 fake passports from Asian countries such as Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore.
They were found in two lodgings owned by the ring in Barcelona, whose airport was allegedly used as the gang's main European hub.
Some of the people trafficked ended up in the sex trade, Spain's Interior Ministry said.
The investigation into the trafficking ring, which police described as a "perfectly structured, hierarchical organisation", started in July 2011.
The "kingpin" remained in China and had independent cells working separately in different countries, according to the authorities.
The traffickers would accompany their clients to Spain, which served as a last stop or "trampoline" to the final destination - usually the UK or the US, they said.
Mainly from China and Malaysia, they were "thorough connoisseurs" of the European airports and cities along the route and had the "complete confidence" of the ringleaders.
They would return home as soon as they had completed each operation to make it harder to track them down.
Migrants were also given precise instructions on how to avoid detection at customs controls, for example by mixing in with a group of tourists.
The route from China was "changed constantly" according to how each trip unfolded to avoid discovery, the police statement said.
Once they arrived in Barcelona, they would be met by operatives and taken to safe houses before continuing their journeys.
At the lodgings in the Spanish city, police found equipment for forging documents including portable computers, scanners, fake custom stamps and a magnifier.
A handgun, mobile phones and bundles of cash, both euros and yuan, were also seized in the operation.