Although based in Madrid, the gang used the Canary Islands as a final staging post to move illegal migrants to the UK.
In early February, after receiving information from the UK Border Agency in the UK, the main operator in the syndicate was identified through collaborative work between the UK Border Agency team in Madrid with their Spanish colleagues in the Central Organised Immigration Crime Brigade.
Information was exchanged and a strategy agreed to counter this threat to the UK Border.
A picture emerged of a network transporting Iranians illegally into Europe and onto the Canaries using false documents.
It was established that safe-houses existed in mainland Spain and the Canaries and the group had ready access to a variety of stolen travel documents and credit cards. By sharing intelligence with the Spanish authorities, and working with airlines and UK Border Agency teams across Europe, groups of Iranians intending to travel illegally to the UK were identified.
The nine arrested were 5 Iranians, 1 Mauritanian, 1 Moroccan, 1 Malian and 1 Colombian.
They have been charged with a variety of offences including falsification of documentation and provision of false documents, credit card fraud, membership of a criminal organisation and people smuggling. It is not known how many people were successfully smuggled in total by this group.
The Operation was the outcome of complex investigations into the movement and arrival of Iranians into the UK from the Canary islands which the Agency's team in Madrid had been working on with the Spanish Police.
This successful collaboration is viewed by the UK and the Spanish authorities as a major success and a template for further joint working to tackle illegal migration into and from Spain.
Simon Cooper, UK Border Agency International Group Assistant Director responsible for Spain, said: The UK Border Agency continues to work in close partnership with the Spanish Police Authorities to tackle illegal migration and the criminal gangs behind it. These arrests represent the successful outcome of a multi-agency operation led by the Spanish Police and conducted in close collaboration with the UK Border Agency overseas and in the UK. Those who engage in the facilitation of illegal migration should know that they will be targeted and brought to justice.
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