According to authorities, 29 persons were arrested in Italy on Wednesday for transporting migrants from Turkey and Greece as part of an operation to dismantle an international criminal gang.
Authorities believe the people apprehended were members of a criminal group with members in all three countries that ferry migrants across the eastern Mediterranean to southern Italy aboard sailboats. The individuals are also accused of laundering the illegal revenues of migrant trafficking.
The arrests follow a four-year investigation by the Italian national police, which was coordinated by the Catanzaro anti-mafia prosecutor’s office, according to Francesco Messina, anti-crime director of Italy’s state police.
Since the beginning of the year, Italy has experienced a large increase of seaborne migrants, with the majority of them arriving from northern African ports.
According to investigators, the migrants were charged roughly €10,000 per trip. Following their arrival in Italy, the smugglers arranged for the migrants to be transported from southern Italy to northern Italian cities such as Milan, Turin, or Trieste, and to provide them with food and shelter along the way.
According to Italian police, the operation included authorities from Turkey, Greece, Belgium, Germany, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Morocco, as well as Europol and Interpol.