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French president calls for migrant smuggling crackdown

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Police in Spain smash sham marriage network that charged migrants €12,000 for bogus nuptials

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police in Spain smash sham marriage network

Spanish police have arrested 30 suspected members of a sham marriage network that facilitated illegal immigration by setting up partnerships of convenience.

In an operation backed by Europol, investigators from Spain’s Policía Nacional carried out 11 raids on multiple residential and business premises, seizing more than €10,000 ($11,093) in cash along with evidence that indicted those detained were involved in the facilitation of illegal immigration and document fraud.

Members of the network are said to have set up sham marriages between male illegal immigrants and Spanish women, allowing the men to formalise their stay in the European Union.

Migrants seeking to avail themselves of the gang’s services would be charged as much as €12,000, with their bogus partners being paid €3,000 for agreeing to enter into fake marriages.

Members of the gang, which was made up of members of both Moroccan and Spanish origin, used a complex web of shell companies to facilitate the conspiracy, and had also set up a sophisticated money laundering operation, through which their profits were funnelled.

The network was based in the Valencia town of Sagunto, but also had bases in Morocco, Belgium, France and Italy, a fact that triggered the involvement of Europol.

In a statement, the EU law enforcement agency said: “Europol provided coordination and analytical support and facilitated the information exchange.

“On the action day, Europol also deployed experts on-the-spot to cross-check operational information in real time against Europol’s databases and to provide technical expertise.”

The investigation that led to the dismantling of the network was launched after Spanish police were alerted to potential irregularities in residence permit applications in Sagunto.

The two alleged leaders of network, a Spaniard and a Frenchman both of Moroccan origin, owned several companies in Sagunto, through which the Spanish women to whom migrants were married were employed.

Migrants who used the network’s services would either remain in Spain or be transported by the gang to France or Belgium.

In January of last year, police in Belgium and Portugal broke up an organised criminal gang that paid mostly Portuguese women to enter into sham marriages with Pakistani men.

Investigators arrested 17 suspects in Belgium and a further three in Portugal in a series of coordinated raids in an operation that targeted a network that was said to have paid women thousands of euros to marry the illegal immigrants.

Back in August 2018, law enforcement agencies in Romania and Poland held five members of an organised crime gang suspected of being behind the arrangement of sham marriages for Indian and Nepali nationals looking to gain access to the EU.

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British charity Dogs Trust warns pet lovers about being ‘dogfished’ by puppy smugglers

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‘dogfished’ by puppy smugglers

UK animal protection charity Dogs Trust has revealed that thousands of Britons may have been conned into buying puppies smuggled into the country illegally by organised criminal gangs in a practice it has dubbed “dogfishing”.

In a survey of 2,000 owners of puppies designed to establish how many may have purchased their pet from gangs that smuggled young dogs into the UK from countries in eastern Europe, the charity spoke with many animal lovers who described puppy dealers offering discounts for quick sales and lying about the age and breed of dogs.

The poll found that more than half (51%) of puppy buyers were not allowed to see the animal they were purchasing more than once, while 43% were not offered the chance to visit the puppy with its mother, which Dogs Trust described as two signs all might not be well.

Nineteen percent of respondents said they were not able to collect their puppy from the seller’s home, of whom a “worrying number” said they were asked to collect their new pet in a carpark or layby.

One woman told Dogs Trust how she was left heartbroken after purchasing a puppy that she saw advertised online on Christmas Eve, only to have to rush it to a vet for emergency treatment on Christmas Day because it had contracted parvo virus, a highly contagious and potentially fatal condition that causes lethargy, vomiting and diarrhoea.

The puppy had to be put down.

Launching a new campaign named Don’t Be Dogfished, Dogs Trust Veterinary Director said: “People think they are getting a healthy, happy puppy but behind the curtain lurks the dark depths of the puppy smuggling trade.

“Many of these poor puppies suffer significant health conditions or lifelong behavioural challenges, and sadly some don’t survive, leaving their buyers helpless and heartbroken – as well as out of pocket.

“This is why we are touring the country in a van like those used by puppy smugglers to educate the public on the shocking realities of the puppy smuggling trade and advising them how they can take action to avoid being ‘dogfished’.

“If it seems too good to be true, as hard as it is, walk away and report it.”

Many organised crime gangs across Europe have moved into puppy smuggling owing to the huge profit it returns for relatively little risk.

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Japan hands Lebanese government Interpol wanted notice for fugitive ex-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn

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fugitive ex-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn

Authorities in Japan have issued an Interpol international Red Notice for former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn.

Ghosn jumped bail and fled Japan to travel to Lebanon between Christmas and new year.

In a dramatic and ultimately successful bid to avoid standing trial over financial misconduct charges, Ghosn is said to have escaped Japan while hiding in a musical instrument case that was taken out of his Tokyo home, where he had been under house arrest awaiting trial.

He was then flown to Lebanon on a private plane.

After arriving, Ghosn issued a defiant statement condemning the Japanese justice system, complaining that he had no chance of receiving a fair hearing there.

“I am now in Lebanon and will no longer be held hostage by a rigged Japanese justice system where guilt is presumed, discrimination is rampant, and basic human rights are denied, in flagrant disregard of Japan’s legal obligations under international law and treaties it is bound to uphold,” he said.

Albert Serhan, Lebanon’s justice minister, said on Thursday he had received the Interpol notice, and that the country’s government would carry out its duties, implying that the ex-car industry executive could be brought in for questioning.

The Lebanese government has already said that Ghosn entered the country legally using a French passport and Lebanese identification papers, making it highly unlikely that he will be handed over to Japanese authorities, particularly as the two nations do not have an extradition treaty.

Ghosn, who has Lebanese ancestry through his grandfather and spent much of his youth in the country, is much celebrated as one of the nation’s major success stories, and has even appeared on stamps there.

Gulf News reported today that Ghosn could even be offered a ministerial position in Lebanon’s government, in spite of the fact that authorities in the country have been facing widespread anti-corruption protests since October last year.

Fadi Walid Akoum, a Lebanese analyst, told Gulf News: “He is seriously being considered for the Ministry of Industry.

“Given that he faces accusations of corruption, then he will be automatically rejected by the Lebanese street, which revolted against corruption last October.”

As well as anti-corruption demonstrations, Lebanon is also facing an economic crisis that has seen the value of the Lebanese pound plummet and banks put limits on cash withdrawals.

Prosecutors in Japan accuse Ghosn of transferring Nissan funds for his personal use and to cover potential trading losses and misreporting his wages.

He has strenuously denied all the allegations made against him.

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