In large-scale operations by Bulgarian and Hungarian police, the suspected leaders of a large gang of people smugglers were arrested on Wednesday. Europol announced this on Friday. From a vehicle, the police took fifteen stowaways. Some of them were injured during the chases in which very high speeds were reached.
A total of 14 suspects were arrested in simultaneous raids in Bulgaria, Greece, and Hungary. Twenty-five vehicles, smartphones, SIM cards, cash, and computers were seized. The gang allegedly brought hundreds of refugees from Turkey to the far northeastern Greek region of Evros and Hungary in recent years.
Two years of investigation uncovered the gang’s fleet of cars. At least 66 cars, most of which were registered in Bulgaria and Georgia, fell into the hands of authorities last month.
According to Europol, the gang had a preference for “more expensive European brands”. Like pegs in a barrel, the stowaways had to sit in the trunks of passenger cars and pickup trucks.
The gang sometimes smuggled up to fifteen people per crossing. Anyone who wanted to go along had to pay between 2,000 and 2,500 euros. According to Europol, the gang would have taken at least 442 refugees to EU territory.