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Major International Crime Ring Disbanded

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A total of 130 people have been arrested in a global operation deployed at 140 airports in 49 countries all believed to be involved in a criminal organisation dedicated to obtaining airline tickets fraudulently.

20150702 - Major International Crime Ring Disbanded

The operation was coordinated by Europol and Interpol in the framework of the so-called “Operación Blue Amber”, aimed at tackling organised crime on several fronts.

In Spain, the operation was coordinated by the Centre for Intelligence against Organized Crime and Terrorism (CITCO) and was undertaken in the airports of Adolfo Suarez Madrid-Barajas, Barcelona-El Prat, Malaga-Costa del Sol and Palma de Mallorca-Son Sant Joan.

A total of 38 European companies, comprised of 33 airlines and 5 travel agencies, filed complaints with the police relating to a number of frauds committed at the airports during the days of the operation.

The card payment networks, card issuers, and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) all supported the operation by providing information to confirm the suspected fraudulent transactions.

During the operation, 222 suspicious transactions (163 in Europe, 23 in Asia and the Pacific, 18 in Latin America and 18 in Canada) were detected. As a result a total of 130 people were arrested (101 in Europe, 11 in Asia and the Pacific, 10 in Latin America, 2 in the United States and 6 in Canada).

Research shows that, in many cases, this type of fraud is related to other forms of serious crime. During the operation, it was believed that the detainees were involved in other forms of crime such as trafficking in human beings, illegal immigration, smuggling of goods, drug trafficking, fraud, cybercrime and terrorism. Therefore, these operations are very effective to discover other forms of serious crime, providing greater security at airports.

As part of the network which developed beyond the airline ticket operation, some 500 people have been arrested as part of Operation Blue Amber, including several intermediaries who would irregularly introduce people in Europe thanks to the cooperation of the countries of the Western Balkans. Indeed, in Hungary a safe house linked to illegal immigration was discovered.

Europol Director, Rob Wainwright, explained that “once again we have seen that successful international cooperation can have a huge impact against organised crime. The result of this operation, with more than 500 arrests, is a direct message that criminals should not feel safe anywhere”, whilst issuing the assurance that Europol will continue to support the police and judicial authorities of the Member States of the European Union through “their unique intelligence and technical capabilities”.

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