Spain’s National Police say they have stopped a criminal gang that transferred “several hundreds” of migrants by boat from Morocco to the Canary Islands, in particular to the islands of Lanzarote and Gran Canaria. 19 were detained in the operation, 17 of Moroccan nationality and two Spanish. 10 of them were on Lanzarote, but there were also arrests in Murcia (2), Cádiz (2), Almería (1), Granada (1), Huesca (1), Madrid (1) and Málaga (1).
Investigators estimate that the detainees are likely to have received more than €75,000. The operation began due to information provided by a witness who reported this criminal network based in both Morocco and Spain.
The network organised the trips by boat, recruiting migrants who made payments that ranged from €500 to €1,500 euros per person to travel to Spanish territories.
The Moroccan side of the gang, organised payments, holding any migrants who did not pay, against their will, until they did.
Their Spanish counterparts, “permanently linked to the Moroccan” side of the gang according to the Police, were based on the island of Lanzarote and collaborated in the planning and organisation of the crossings of migrants by boat, providing “the logistics apparatus of the organization.”
The Police, who have recently intensified controls at airports and ports to discourage the transfer of migrants from the Canary Islands to the Peninsula, have estimated that the criminal organization would have managed to transfer “several hundred migrants from the Canary Islands archipelago” generating up to €75,000 in illegal fees.
The police operation, in which more than 70 agents participated, concluded with the arrest of 19 people who have been charged with perpetrating crimes including belonging to a criminal organisation, against the rights of foreign citizens, money laundering and document falsification.
Three homes on the island of Lanzarote were searched and seizures included three vehicles, eight mobile phones and various pieces of computer equipment.