UK & World News
Illegal Immigrant Smuggling Racket Smashed
Police have smashed an international gang smuggling hundreds of illegal immigrants into Britain using fake documents.
To get into the country the racket provided identity cards, simply inserted new photographs and charged "customers" between £6,000 and £10,000 (£4,800 - £8,000).
The method - far from sophisticated - was eventually clocked by Italian border guards at Rome airport which the gang used as its onward hub.
Officials said that in total 21 people - including a retired police officer - had been held in the operation which was code named Eagle. Further arrests are planned.
Police said the legitimate holders of the identity card were involved in the scam and would be paid a cut.
The scam involved Albanians travelling initially to Turkey and then on to Britain via Rome.
The illegal immigrants would be "accompanied" through Italian passport control to help provide a cover and so as not to arouse suspicion.
But the gang were rumbled after one passport official began to closely examine an identity card which he suspected was false and the "owner" then ran off.
Footage provided by Italian police showed a couple walking through passport control after having their documents checked - the woman was travelling on a false identity card.
Rome airport police chief Antonio Del Greco said: "The operation was highly organised and highly lucrative as people were charged up to 10,000 euros a time.
"We suspect that at least a dozen people a week travelled to Britain using this method and it was arranged along the lines of a travel agency.
"The illegal immigrants were provided with false documents and accompanied to passport control by an Italian who would then travel with them to provide cover.
"The operation lasted 18 months and although we suspect a dozen people a week went through the true figure could be many more."
It comes just days after it emerged French fishing boats had been used to smuggle dozens of Albanian illegal immigrants across the Channel to remote beaches and cove along the south coast.