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Europol busts fake ID and smuggling ring

Europol says 29 arrests have been made in connection with a document forgery and smuggling crime ring. The arrests were made in EU countries, including Germany.

Friday's announcement from the European Union's law enforcement agency, Europol, said that the arrests were made in an operation in five EU states.

Twenty-nine people suspected of large-scale document forgery, smuggling of migrants, and money laundering were arrested on October 22 in operations carried out in Austria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

"The organized criminal network, composed of persons of various nationalities, was involved in the massive production and distribution of falsified or forged documents for the purpose of facilitating illegal immigration," read a statement on the Europol website.

In addition to the suspects, 11 "irregular migrants" were arrested for an "illegal stay" in the EU.

Europol said fake ID cards, passports, and driving licenses were provided to the illegal migrants for the purpose of entering the EU or for legitimizing their stay.

Payments were facilitated using Western Union or MoneyGram.

70 searches

In the October operation, more than 70 searches were conducted of residences, which resulted in the seizure of a large number of mobile phones, SIM cards, computers, forged documents, forgery equipment, banking documents, and two handguns.

A mobile office was deployed to Germany on the day of the operation to support the teams involved with "on-the-spot intelligence analysis."

mz/tj,ipj (dpa, AP)