A gang of people smugglers was detained in Poland by officers from the Nadbużański Border Guard Unit on Tuesday, the prosecutor’s office has confirmed.
Nine people believed to be involved in the smuggling of migrants from Belarus were apprehended by authorities. They had allegedly been operating since September 2021 in the Podlaskie region, as well as in Lodz, Warsaw and Wroclaw.
“The group committed crimes which resolved around illegally organizing border crossings from Belarus for foreigners who did not possess documents permitting them to cross the EU’s border,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
Polish authorities believe there were two ringleaders for the group, one of whom was responsible for organizing the place and time of the illegal border crossing from Belarus to Poland, and the other who handled the finances. People who lived in areas close to the border and in Białystok and Warsaw were often recruited as couriers via messaging apps — they would then transport migrants through Poland to Germany.
The couriers were paid for their services by specifically chosen members of the smuggling group.
The prosecutor’s office determined that the person responsible for distributing payments had spent €8.7 million on the group’s activity, with more than €4.3 million having been paid out to couriers to transport migrants to Germany. The prosecutor’s office also seized €475,000 and $30,000 from the gang.
The court has imposed temporary arrests on four suspects for three months. Countermeasures in the form of police surveillance and a ban on leaving Poland were imposed on the remaining members of the smuggling group.
The prosecutor’s statement emphasized that these detentions were not the first ones which involved stopping members of an organized smuggling group. During previous investigations of this case, seven people were detained and the court imposed temporary arrests on them. Two of those people were responsible for transferring money to couriers. Eleven more suspects remain in temporary custody and the prosecutor’s office is conducting procedures with the help of the Border Guard and Europol.
Polish authorities have insisted that the investigation is ongoing, with further arrests still possible.