A scene from the raid conducted by the Lodi Finance police which dismantled a criminal organization working in facilitating illegal immigration. | Photo: ANSA/ Guardia di Finanza (Finance police)
A scene from the raid conducted by the Lodi Finance police which dismantled a criminal organization working in facilitating illegal immigration. | Photo: ANSA/ Guardia di Finanza (Finance police)

A raid by Italian authorities has dismantled a criminal organization that trafficked migrants, including children, from Italy to northern Europe. The traffickers even offered 'discount rates' for children, including 700 euros for three children.

Ten suspected migrant traffickers have been arrested in raids conducted by the Italian finance police in Lodi, Italy.  The arrests effectively dismantled a criminal organization working on transporting migrants from Italy to Northern Europe. 


The organization had even allegedly offered migrants a sort of group discount rate, such as charging 700 euros to transport three children. The ten arrested - eight Egyptians and two Pakistanis - allegedly trafficked migrants of African and Asian origin who were willing to do anything to try to cross the Italian border north into France, or onward to Spain or Slovenia. 

Intercepted

Police intercepted phone calls in which the so called "passeurs," or smugglers, talked about their auto transport rates. In one such wiretap, one man is heard saying: "There are three small children...700 for them". This wasn't the only discount the group appeared to offer. The police also have indications that Egyptian adults could travel for a cost of 350 euros.

Preliminary investigating magistrate Livio Cristofano, who signed the arrest warrant requested by Milan anti-mafia prosecutor Adriano Scudieri, said the rates were also negotiable, "following complaints from passengers." All those arrested are accused of conspiracy to commit crime and other crimes (about 50 counts in all) Investigating magistrates have reconstructed 48 such trips as part of their evidence. According to the 1,000-plus-page arrest warrant, they had created a "structure" characterized "by division of roles and tasks and equipped with relevant logistical support" including "vehicles for transporting people, places to take those being transported, mobile phones and SIM cards for contacts."

The group allegedly organized trips for about a hundred migrants between September and December 2017, from "areas of North Africa (mainly Egypt) and Western Asia (mainly Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Kurdistan)" towards Northern Europe. 

At times, they made money on "return trips" of migrants to Italy as well. In one of the wiretapped conversations, a person is heard saying: "The Pakistani ... with small children ... take 400". Another of those arrested is heard saying: "He told me that he'll give me 250." Cristofano believes that following that conversation, another of those arrested contacted "a possible driver, to ask if he was available to make a trip, as he had recruited five to six people, including two children." 

Murderer among those transported 

According to the charges, the leader of the organization was Manzoor Hussain. He allegedly recruited "irregular migrants as drivers, giving directions to the drivers and those accompanying them for the trips and the money collecting, setting rates for those transported, and deciding on methods of coercion to collect the money." In fact, if the migrants didn't pay, they were left locked in the cars. One of those arrested, Yasser El Skarkawi, is heard saying: "No one gets out of the car until the accounts are settled, ok? They don't get out until they pay." 

Investigators believe there was even a murderer among those transported. At one point in the intercepted conversation, Hussain is heard saying: "I brought that Pathan who killed two people and fled Greece, I brought him here to Italy."
 

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