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EUROPOL: Cross-border raids and arrests shut down ‘extremely lucrative’ trafficking and laundering network worth almost €14M

By Dan Byrne for AMLi

AUTHORITIES in three European countries have dismantled an organised crime ring that laundered millions in profits from human trafficking and labour exploitation.   

Simultaneous raids in France, Romania and Moldova shut down the network this week, putting to an end a business that Europol described in a Thursday statement as “extremely lucrative.” 

The joint operation between the French National Police (Police aux Frontières / Police judiciaire), the Romanian Police (Poliția Română) and the Moldovan Police (Inspectoratul General de Poliție) – all led by the French border police – carried out coordinated searches of 51 locations on 22 February.  

They arrested 38 people: 28 in France, 7 in Moldova and 3 in Romania. They also seized assets including nineteen vehicles, two jet skis, weapons, phones and around €100,000 in cash. Eleven bank accounts were also frozen during the crackdown.  

Investigations into the criminal network began in 2018, after officers in France stopped a van transporting ten illegal migrants. All these migrants were Moldovan nationals and had forged documents, Europol said. 

“The criminal group, organised by a Romanian national living in France, smuggled at least 40 Moldovan nationals to exploit them in the construction business in France,” their statement read.  

The false documents given by the criminal network alleged the carriers were from Romania – and thus from another EU country. Most of the smuggled migrants had relatively little education and were more vulnerable to exploitation because of this.

They were put to work for 55 hours a week in France, being paid €60 per day for jobs mostly related to construction and renovation. Companies specialising in these industries were also attached to the criminal network.  

“The activity was extremely lucrative, with illegal profits estimated at almost €14 million,” Europol said, noting that the dirty money was then laundered to final destinations through eight shell companies, most of them French.  

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