THE HAGUE, Sept. 13 (Xinhua) -- A Nigerian sham marriage criminal network was dismantled in Germany and Portugal following an international police operation supported by Europol, the European Union's police agency announced on Wednesday.
The operation has resulted in 50 house searches and the arrest of five suspects. The investigation, led by the German Federal Police and Criminal Investigations Department of Berlin, in close cooperation with the Portuguese Immigration and Borders Service/SEF, was initiated in October 2016 on the suspicion of facilitation of illegal immigration via marriages of convenience, so-called sham marriages.
The investigators identified a Nigerian-led criminal network which was engaged in the facilitation of these sham marriages through the provision of false information and documentation to marriage registrars, thus exploiting the asylum and immigration system. These criminal elements were gleaning huge profits by organizing EU residency status for Nigerian nationals through these marriages of convenience, said Europol.
In Germany, lots of passports and documents were seized and a total of seven arrest warrants were issued. In Portugal, house searches were executed in Lisbon, on the occasion of which fraudulent certificates, passports and EU residence permits were seized.
Europol's Migrant Smuggling Centre was involved in this investigation from the onset, providing tailored analytical support and co-ordinating the cooperation between both EU Member States. During the action days, two Europol officers were deployed to Germany and Portugal for on-the-spot support to the national investigators, including real-time data exchange and cross-checks against Europol databases.