The arrested suspects are believed to be part of a wider ring with as many as 80 members that organized at least 30 smuggling operations that transported at least 1,100 people by boat from Turkey to the coast of Puglia, and then on to other European countries, EU law enforcement agency Europol said.
Police in Italy, Albania and Greece on Wednesday arrested some 30 people accused of profiteering several hundred million euros to smuggle refugees and migrants into the European Union from Turkey on yachts and other leisure vessels, reports the AP.
The coordinated action is believed to have dealt a serious blow to the lucrative Turkey-Europe sailboat crossings, for which people pay between $6,000 to $10,000 to reach southern Italy, with an eye on northern European destinations.
“We hope to have curbed the phenomenon, for the next few weeks or the next few months,″ said Lt. Col. Giuseppe Giulio Leo, head of Italy’s financial police in the southern city of Lecce. ”Still, we need to take into account that there will be someone ready to join the organization and take over the various roles.”
The smugglers use mostly sailboats and yachts, but also fishing boats and less sea-worthy craft, packing between 30 to 180 people on board, he said. Their destination is typically the southern region of Puglia, the closest point, but they often wind up in Calabria due to weather, Leo said.
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