Guardia Civil busts human trafficking ring earning €1 million from exploited migrants

by Lorraine Williamson
trafficking migrants

The Guardia Civil has apprehended three individuals allegedly involved in a human trafficking network aimed at recruiting migrants of Maghreb origin and smuggling them into the Iberian Peninsula through a web of predominantly agricultural businesses.

Codenamed “Operation Cone,” the investigation has shed light on a nefarious scheme that exploited vulnerable migrants for financial gain.

Promises in return for money

The members of this irregular immigration network purportedly facilitated the entry of approximately a hundred individuals from Morocco into Spain. They allegedly charged them a fee ranging between €14,000 and €16,000 each. Exploiting several companies based in Spain, they orchestrated a facade of legality around the migrants’ entry. The process typically commenced with a job offer followed by employment contracts, promising regularisation. However, many of these individuals never ended up working for the said companies or remained registered in the social security system for only a brief period.

The companies advertised these job offers as positions with specific conditions that were supposedly hard to fill. This was challenging to find suitable candidates among the local job seekers in the agricultural sector of the Toledo province. Subsequently, they obtained certificates enabling the hiring of foreign workers in their countries of origin. This offered them employment contracts in exchange for payment to obtain a Work Permit by a Third Party and a Temporary Residence Permit.

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More than 100 victims

Investigators estimate that the detainees could have amassed up to €1 million from over 100 victims identified thus far. However, the promised regularisation never materialised for many victims. This left them stranded and burdened with debts incurred from the exorbitant fees demanded upfront.

Throughout the investigation, numerous complaints and testimonies from victims have corroborated suspicions, revealing the modus operandi employed by the detained individuals. The probe remains ongoing, with the possibility of additional arrests not being ruled out.

Operation Cone

Operation Cone was conducted by the Information Group of the Guardia Civil Command in Toledo and the People Trafficking Unit of the Organic Judicial Police Unit, with support from the Information Headquarters (UCE3) and the Citizen Security Unit of Toledo.

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