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Police smash human trafficking ring.

Detectives yesterday smashed a smuggling ring thought to have brought hundreds of illegal immigrants into the UK from the Indian sub-continent.

Five of the Indian gang, who all had British nationality, were arrested in police raids on eight addresses in Birmingham, London and Bedford yesterday morning.

A sixth man, suspected of being an illegal immigrant, was also held.

The police carried out raids in Handsworth, Handsworth Wood and Ladywood in Birmingham at the end of an eight-month long probe by the National Crime Squad's Immigration Crime Team.

Those smuggled in by the gang are thought to have paid around pounds 8,000 for their passage in what police described as a highly sophisticated scam.

The money was for fraudulently obtained passports and supporting documents, including stamps and entry and exist visas. When the illegal immigrants arrived in the UK they were able to show immigration officials that they were on the return leg of a holiday to the Indian sub-continent. A police source said: 'In some instances it is believed genuine passports have been bought from UK citizens and then doctored to fit the profile of the illegal immigrant.

'We also believe this gang may have a stockpile of passports which they alter on demand.

'This is an extremely significant breakthrough - this gang was well established.'

Detectives believe the gang's activities stretched across four continents.

They first became aware of the gang earlier this year but do not know how long the scam had been operating.

Detective Inspector Frank Francis, of the National Crime Squad's Immigration Crime Team, which carried out the operation, said: 'This is a very complex investigation and we are pleased with the outcome.

'People smuggling and human trafficking generates millions of pounds for the organised crime groups involved in much the same way that other crime groups traffic drugs. The main difference is of course, that in this case the commodity is vulnerable people being exploited purely for profit.'
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Oct 2, 2002
Words:323
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