New Delhi, Feb 2 (IANS) A criminal network facilitating illegal migration into the European Union, via sham marriages, has been busted in Cyprus, leading to the arrest of 15 individuals, including Indians and Pakistanis, European police said.
Investigations by Europol’s Operational Task Force (OTF) found that the network was also involved in human trafficking and money laundering activities, as well as forcing victims into bogus marriages for immigration purposes.
“The suspects allegedly recruited Latvian and Portuguese nationals and facilitated their journeys to Cyprus, where the women entered into arranged marriages with third-country nationals,” the European police agency said in a statement.
Thereafter, these suspects — mainly Indian, Pakistani, and Portuguese citizens — arranged all the logistics including the purchase of flight tickets and the acquisition of passports and other required documents.
The arrested individuals are being held by the Larnaca district court in Cyprus until February 7. A total of 133 marriages of convenience were conducted between Portuguese and Latvian women and Indian and Pakistani men, investigations by the OTF found.
The sham marriage ceremonies took place in town halls around Aradippou, Livadia, and Nicosia, enabling the non-EU nationals to obtain residence permits from third countries, which they then used to travel to other European countries.
The two main organisers were arrested in Latvia and Portugal and 13 others were arrested in Cyprus, Europol said, adding that four of them were high-value targets.