Authorities allege that a number of Indian nationals sought residency in Germany using falsified Greek visas and fake marriage certificates claiming they had Romanian brides. The key suspect faces serious charges.
German federal police arrested the alleged head of a human-trafficking ring in the western city of Essen Wednesday.
The 21-year-old Indian national faces charges of running a commercially sized people-smuggling ring and falsifying documents. The suspect allegedly provided fake documents that would guarantee residency in Germany for a fee of between €14,000 and €17,000 ($16,400 and $19,900).
"He is accused in numerous cases of providing Indian compatriots with falsified Greek visas to enable them to enter the Schengen Area," said state prosecutors, referring to Europe's nominally free-movement zone for people, goods, services and capital.
"Those smuggled presented the falsified documents at municipal German registry offices and thereby obtained residency in Germany and permission to work."
The smuggler is also accused of obtaining falsified Romanian marriage certificates and brokering "Romanian nationals as purported wives," the authorities said.
If the men were legally married to Romanian — and therefore EU — citizens, then they would be entitled to work and residency permits in Germany.
Read more: Nigerians suspected in sham marriages
Europe's Schengen Area comprises 26 nations including Greece
Police also searched 23 apartments in six cities of Germany's most populous state, including Kleve and Duisburg along the lower Rhine River and Herne in the adjacent Ruhr District.
More than 50 Indian nationals and Romanian women face investigation, according a joint statement from North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) and Germany's Bundespolizei, a federal police force with a particular focus on border control.
Six further Indian nationals were subsequently arrested and were placed in custody pending deportation, prosecutors said.
In several cases, the suspects had already made unsuccessful attempts at obtaining asylum before going into hiding inside Germany, they added.
Ukrainian caught with Hungarian visa
In a parallel case, federal police said on Monday officers at the German-Polish border caught a 31-year-old Ukrainian with allegedly falsified papers.
Using a false Polish identity and work permit, he had registered in the county of Lippe in the northern part of NRW state. Also found on him was a fraudulently obtained Hungarian cultural-activities visa sometimes issued to artists working across borders.
ipj/rt (dpa, AFP)