Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Cyprus-led sting operation busts illegal European immigration ring that arranged sham marriages

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NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Cyprus officials said Wednesday they led a Europol-organized sting operation that dismantled an international criminal ring facilitating illegal immigration and residency in European Union countries using dozens of sham marriages on the east Mediterranean island nation.

Police said the sham marriages involved women from Portugal and Lithuania and men from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. According to police, the ring was implicated in a host of illegal activities associated with the more than 130 sham marriages, including circulating forged documents and assisting in illegal entry into the country.

Police in Cyprus, Portugal and Lithuania initiated the joint sting operation dubbed “Operational Task Force Limassol” on Jan. 29. They conducted simultaneous searches in targeted homes and arrested 13 suspects in Cyprus, one in Portugal and another in Lithuania.

Cypriot authorities said four of those suspects are believed to be the ring’s masterminds. Two individuals, aged 37 and 24 respectively, were arrested in Cyprus. The other two, aged 45 and 46, were taken into custody abroad on the strength of a European arrest warrant.

A Cyprus court on Wednesday ordered the 13 suspects to remain in custody until Feb. 7. Proceedings to extradite the remaining two in Portuguese and Lithuanian custody were underway.

Europol coordinated the sting operation and provided funding and intelligence.

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