Five arrested on suspicion of smuggling migrants in private aircraft


Five people have been arrested in Rome and Brussels for allegedly smuggling migrants from Turkey to western Europe via private aircraft, and two aircraft have been seized.

Italian police said the suspects, held on warrants issued by Belgian authorities, are accused of charging around €10,000 ($10,000) each to smuggle the migrants. Eurojust report suspects charged as much as €20,000 per smuggled person. The police believe the suspects to belong to a criminal organisation aimed at abetting illegal immigration, according to Reuters. Two arrests were made in Belgium, three in Italy. 

The two aircraft, seized by Belgian police, are reportedly worth €426,000.

The suspects allegedly gave the migrants fake diplomatic identification papers from St. Kitts and Nevis and put them on flights heading to the Caribbean country with stopovers in Europe. Once in Europe, the migrants would declare their real identity and apply for asylum.

It is believed that, between October and December 2020, at least five smuggling operations took place in five different European countries. In addition, several plans were made to carry out other smuggling operations. 

Following a joint investigation by the five European authorities, an Italian man and two Egyptian men were detained in Rome, while another Egyptian and a Tunisian woman were arrested in Brussels. Two more suspects remain at large in Italy and Belgium, according to Italian police chief Costantino Scudieri.