Middle East: Lebanese gang accused of smuggling Syrians to Germany

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Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported that two Lebanese and one Syrian face accusations in Germany of smuggling Syrians and pretending to be refugees. Prosecutors in Trier, in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, have charged the Lebanese men arrested since last October, and the 32-year-old Syrian. The two Lebanese belong to one of the Arab tribes in Germany, one of whom is 55 years old and his son 23 years old.

The newspaper added that the three are accused of forming a gang with two people abroad, to smuggle Syrians from the airports of Tehran, Damascus, Beirut and Russia to Germany and the Netherlands. According to the public prosecution, the defendants used false travel visas to smuggle the Syrians, especially through Beirut airport. She used real German visas, obtained by the gang from a member of the Lebanese family who works in the visa section of the German Embassy in Beirut, and issued the visas illegally.

According to the prosecution, the smugglers arrived in Germany through the airports of Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, Munich and Amsterdam. One of the gang members was always accompanying the smuggled people, and they took their passports before they arrived at the border security to check their visas. When people reach security, they apply for asylum.

The prosecution accuses the Lebanese man of establishing the gang and organizing smuggling operations. He says he received sums ranging from 4,500 euros to 17,000 euros from each person smuggled into Germany and the Netherlands. The defendants managed to admit 15 people for 26 who tried to smuggle them to Europe. Smuggling is believed to have occurred between August 2018 and September 2019.

Prosecutors also accuse the son of the man who founded the gang of accompanying 6 of the people smuggled into Germany, while the Syrian are accused of escorting 3 people and helping the Lebanese to transport people to airports to smuggle them. Investigators are still searching for the other two who helped the gang in Beirut carry out smuggling. The prosecution suspected other people involved but dropped the charges against them for not possessing sufficient evidence to implicate them. The prosecution charges other three men, with regard to crimes of theft and bribery. According to the prosecution, the man who founded the gang offered bribes to an immigration official to facilitate the granting of his wife a German passport. The German authorities failed to find the Lebanese employee who was working at the German embassy in Beirut, and the gang helped secure false visas. In October last year, a German Foreign Ministry official told the most popular popular newspaper Bild in Germany that work was underway with the Lebanese criminal authorities to locate the accused, who had not worked as an embassy employee. The man is believed to have worked at the embassy until 2017, and stole visas from the embassy and sold them to the gang. According to the newspaper “Bild”, the German police received information about this gang after a wide campaign of raids in the country targeting gangs smuggling refugees. Last year, the police in Germany escalated their war against Arab gangs that are active in many crimes, such as drugs, smuggling and money laundering. Dozens of raids targeting gang members were carried out in a large number of states, especially Berlin, North Rhine-Westphalia and the Rhineland-Palatinate. In the state of North Rhine alone, it is believed that there are more than 100 active gangs, numbering approximately 10,000. The largest gangs are of German nationality (36%), followed by Lebanese (31%), Turks (15%), and Syrians (13%), according to the police. For many years, the German authorities turned a blind eye to gang work in the country, but this year they decided to escalate the campaign against them after they increased their puppies and grew to target the theft of large museums and banks.





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