Global Authorities Thwart Multimillion-Euro Cuban Human Smuggling Network

A groundbreaking multinational operation spearheaded by EUROPOL and INTERPOL has led to the arrest of 62 individuals, including 25 Cuban citizens.

by Faruk Imamovic
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Global Authorities Thwart Multimillion-Euro Cuban Human Smuggling Network

A groundbreaking multinational operation spearheaded by EUROPOL and INTERPOL has led to the arrest of 62 individuals, including 25 Cuban citizens. They are believed to be part of an extensive criminal network smuggling Cubans into Western Europe via Serbia.

The operation involved law enforcement agencies from Spain, Greece, and Serbia, which collectively seized 18 properties, 33 vehicles, and 144 bank accounts. Additionally, authorities discovered substantial amounts of cash in various currencies, hundreds of falsified documents, and equipment used for forgery.

EUROPOL stated, "The investigation revealed a complex criminal infrastructure set up in many cities across Spain, Greece and in Serbia, flexible and able to adapt to changing circumstances in order to keep their illicit business going." For a fee of around 9,000 euros per individual, the smugglers organized travel, transfers, and provided counterfeit documentation.

EUROPOL estimates that the network has illegally smuggled about 5,000 Cuban citizens into the EU, garnering a profit of approximately 45 million euros.

Changing Routes and Exploitation

The investigation was initiated in October 2021 after Serbian, Greek, North Macedonian, and Finnish authorities reported a surge in Cuban nationals attempting to enter Europe using forged documents.

Initially, these individuals would fly commercially from Cuba to Russia. Upon arrival, the smugglers would then offer two options for irregular entry into the EU: either through the Russian-Finnish border or by flying to Serbia and continuing to central or southern Europe.

However, due to the onset of Russian aggression against Ukraine, the preferred route was altered. Cuban nationals were flown to Serbia via Frankfurt airport in Germany, from which point the smuggling network facilitated their irregular entry into North Macedonia and Greece by land.

EUROPOL's report painted a grim picture of the conditions experienced by the smuggled individuals: "Using a variety of routes, the smugglers would direct large groups of migrants and make them walk in the dark without supplies for hours." Moreover, the criminals would exploit the most vulnerable, including minors, with scams, robberies, and extortion.

Some of the women were transferred to other criminal groups for exploitation. This expose of the Cuban human smuggling network showcases the successful collaboration of multinational authorities to fight against serious international crime.

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