In September 2011, it was reported to authorities that a Pakistani individual – later identified as Defendant 1 – was member of an organised criminal group dedicated to the smuggling of migrants and weapons from France to Spain. Specifically, he would transport irregular migrants - arriving by train to Toulouse (France) - to Spain, in a Volkswagen van. He used to cross the border between 15.00 and 19.00. Authorities began monitoring Defendant 1 and were able to confirm he further often drove a vehicle Renault. On 17 October 2011, police officers followed Defendant 1, who crossed the border to France and later returned to Lleida (Spain), with two additional individuals. The vehicle was lost in the traffic of this city. On 23 October 2011, the Volkswagen and Renault travelled to France, one following the other, through the border crossing point of Les-Puente del Rey. Accordingly, authorities decided to prepare a control operation on site with the purpose of intercepting the vehicles, upon their return to Spain. At approximately 16.40 of the same day, the Renault was intercepted, being driven by Defendant 2. It carried functions of reconnaissance. Around 17.00, Defendant 1 was intercepted driving the Volkswagen and transporting eight irregular migrants (four Pakistani, one Indian and three Nepalese). Seven of the latter had reached Europe (Italy, France or Germany) by sea, in containers, from their countries of origin. The irregular migrants were then transferred by truck to the surroundings of the cross border area of Les-Puente del Rey, collected by Defendant 1, with the aim of leading them to Lleida.
Defendant 1 was detained during the traffic control operation afore-mentioned.
Authorities were able to determine that Defendant 1 was member of an organised criminal group, being in regular contract with several associates, some of whom not identified. The said criminal group, upon payment of considerable fees, ensured the smuggling of migrants – mostly from India, Pakistan and Nepal – to European countries, by sea, in containers. They would then ensure their transit by land until the wished country of destination. Sometimes, they were left close the train or bus stations. Other times, they remained few days in ‘safe houses’ until the arrangement of the necessary documentation so that the smuggled migrants could regularise their situation in Spain. In some instances, Defendant 1, in agreement with associates in the organised criminal group, resorted to Pakistani and Hindu individuals settled in England, who collected the migrants arriving to that country. They would then arrange for the follow-up of the smuggling venture, for instance, by providing train or bus tickets that led the migrants to a specified collection point or simply to their city or country of election.
After paying a 6000 Euro bail, Defendant 1 was released but continued to pursue his illegal activities, this time exploring alternative routes to Les-Puente del Rey. Investigations detected interactions of Defendant 1 with another smuggler known for having dedicated 36 years to the smuggling of migrants to France, Spain and Portugal. On 9 February 2012, Defendant 1 was observed participating in another smuggling venture, this time not only facilitating the irregular transit of migrants but also providing accommodation thereto in his residence.
On 5 March 2012, ten people were detained in the bus station of San Sebastian (Spain). They had paid considerable sums to be smuggled from England into Spain.
It was not determined that Defendant 2 perceived any profit for the assistance given to Defendant 1. The other defendants were deemed to have provided some form of support to the activities led by Defendant 1, including facilitating work in the black market to irregular migrants or promoting sham marriages.
In ascertain the facts, authorities relied on testimonial evidence, the outcome of electronic surveillance as well as search and seizure operations. In the course of the latter, important documentary evidence of the criminal activities engaged in by the defendants (and the organised criminal group) were discovered in their residence and other locations frequented by them.
The Public Prosecutor had requested that (i) Defendant 1 be sentenced to six years’ imprisonment for migrant smuggling, (ii) Defendant 2 be sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for migrant smuggling, (iii) the remaining defendants be sentenced to one year and six months imprisonment for the crime of concealment. The Provincial Court of Lleida (Spain) convicted the defendants thought it applied sentences lower than the ones claimed by the Prosecution.
For further details see “Commentary”.
The Magistrate’s Court Nº 1 of Vielha (Spain) referred the case against the defendant (summary proceedings 53/2015) to the Provincial Court of Lleida (Spain).
Defendant #1: Imprisonment 6 years and Suspension of the right to be elected for public office for the duration of the sentence
Multiple, at least 20
No prior criminal record. In custody from 8 March 2012 until 10 June 2013 for reasons related to the instant case.
Audiencia Provincial de Lleida