The Italian Guardia di Finanza has arrested a second Guinean human trafficking ringleader as part of ‘Operation Malta’s Passeur’.
The human trafficking ring, according to Italian authorities, smuggled hundreds of irregular migrants into Italy from Malta by using Malta as a temporary staging post where they were given temporary accommodation and fake papers for travel to Italy by plane.
It is believed that hundreds of irregular migrants used forged identity documents they were supplied in Malta by the ring to enter Italy on scheduled flights from Malta to numerous Italian airports.
Another ringleader of the organised crime group was arrested recently in Treviso when he attempted to renew his Italian residency permit when authorities handling the application saw the individual was the subject of an Italian arrest warrant.
On the orders of the Treviso Public Prosecutor’s Office, the suspect has now been taken to Treviso prison where he will join an alleged partner in crime who had been arrested in Orleans, France last November 2022 on the strength of a European Arrest Warrant ordered by the Court of Treviso.
The pair is two of three Guineans investigated in the October 2019 ‘Operation Malta’s Passeur’, which revealed a complex operation sending hundreds of migrants to several Italian airports on scheduled flights from Malta with forged identity documents.
The operation was conducted by the Fiamme Gialle of Treviso with the collaboration of the Guardia di Finanza and the Interior Ministry.
Investigations began in 2019 when two irregular African immigrants arriving from Malta were arrested at the Treviso airport. Both were found to be using the same counterfeit passport with the identity of the same third party.
‘Tried and tested’ Malta-Italy smuggling operation
Through subsequent investigations – including telephone intercepts, analyses of the passenger lists flight reservations and suspects’ bank accounts – Italian investigators were able to reconstruct a “tried and tested” system the three Guineans created to smuggle migrants into Italy by using Malta as a stopover base.
Before making their way to their final destination of Italy, investigators say migrants were first staged in Malta where they received temporary accommodation and counterfeit identity documents from the suspects themselves.
After that, they were put on flights bound for Treviso, Rome Ciampino, Rome Fiumicino, Bari, Turin, Orio al Serio, Naples and Perugia as well as on ferries to Catania.
The rate being charged for entry into Italy from Malta, according to investigators, was between €450 and €700.
When the still-unnamed smuggler arrested in France had first been arrested in Naples, he was found in possession of fake identity documents and passports used by the trafficking ring’s customers.
Those documents – as well as chats found on mobile phones, the passenger lists of different airlines and an analysis of suspects’ bank accounts – led Italian investigators to the conclusion that the operation was much larger than had originally been thought.
They also understood from an analysis of the telephone data that the ring could have sent hundreds of irregular migrants to Italy through the Malta route they devised.
A third suspected Guinean ringleader is still at large.