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Allowing migrants to mass in Calais is fuelling a brutal people smuggling trade

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brutal people smuggling trade

The clearance of the Calais Jungle camp in October 2016 was supposed to spell the end of would-be asylum seekers using the region around the French port town as a base from which to launch clandestine attempts to sneak into the UK. In the direct aftermath of the bulldozing of the squalid shantytown, which for years stood as a monument to Europe’s failure to get to grips with the migrant crisis, French officials declared the operation a success, informing reporters that every inhabitant of the site had been transferred to reception centres around the country to have their applications for asylum processed. But while politicians and senior police figures congratulated themselves on a job well done, campaigners and charities on the ground were telling a very different story, describing scores of migrants, many of whom were children, sleeping rough in and around Calais. More than a year later, the situation not only looks just as bleak, but appears to be getting much worse.

While the French government has managed to prevent another Jungle camp being built over the intervening months, migrants have continued to make their way to Calais in the hope of crossing the Channel to Britain in steadily increasing numbers, fuelling a thriving people smuggling trade that often involves extreme violence that is said to have left inhabitants of the town at the end of their tether. It may have been the case that the destruction of the Jungle camp led to a temporary respite in the criminality associated with the human trafficking gangs that exploit the misery of migrants desperate to pursue their dreams of a better life in the UK, but a recent surge in the number of arrivals in Calais has coincided with an apparent rise in the type of violent incidents that occurred with alarming regularity before the Jungle slum was torn down.

In January, there were believed to be some 1,000 migrants sleeping rough in and around the Calais region, including at least 70 lone children. That figure is reported to have risen sharply over recent weeks after the UK and France signed a border treaty that involves Britain making a larger contribution towards efforts to prevent migrants from attempting to cross the Channel. According to a report from the Observer, the newly-signed treaty raised false hope among migrants that they would have an easier time reaching the UK once they arrive in Calais. As the number of migrants travelling to the town has risen, unprecedented levels of violence are said to have broken out between rival gangs jostling for control of the highly-lucrative people smuggling trade. Last week, a mass brawl broke out between Afghan and Eritrean gangs, resulting in at least five migrants suffering gunshot wounds.

Speaking after the incident, French interior minister Gerard Collomb said: “This is a level of violence that hasn’t been seen before. We have reached an escalation of violence that has become unbearable for people from Calais and migrants. There will be people here at their wits’ ends faced with this increasingly violent presence among a certain number of migrants, who it is plain to see are organised in gangs. I… reaffirm our mobilisation against the smugglers who feed daily violence and brawls.” The problem has become so acute that French police are reported to have deployed an extra 100 officers in and around the Calais area. It is thought the rising level of violence has been caused by an increased rivalry between people smuggling gangs, who are said to be fighting over the growing number of UK-bound migrants arriving in Calais. People trafficking gangs can charge migrants as much as €10,000 (€12,265) each to be smuggled across the English Channel in the back of trucks.

With such huge rewards on offer, it is hardly surprising that the Calais region remains a magnet for violent people smuggling networks that have developed a reputation for meting out brutal attacks to protect their businesses. These groups will continue to prey on migrants all the while would-be asylum seekers are allowed to mass in and around Calais in the hope of travelling on to Britain. Accepting the fact that migrants who reach Calais are typically able to do so thanks to other EU countries failing to fulfil their responsibilities under the Dublin Regulation, which stipulates that refugees must apply for asylum in the first European country they arrive in, the time has come for France, with support from the UK, to take decisive action.

Migrants who travel to Calais in the hope of reaching Britain have typically turned down the opportunity to claim asylum at reception centres in France. By failing to compel them to do so, the French authorities are fuelling an illicit people smuggling trade that is not only hugely distressing to the residents of the country’s northern towns, but immensely damaging to the migrants who are its primary victims. As long as migrants are permitted to make their way to towns such as Calais, people smuggling gangs will continue to enjoy brisk business, which they appear to be more than willing to protect with increasing levels of brutality.

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Gibraltar and Japan Tobacco International agree to tackle smuggling of firm’s cigarette and rolling tobacco brands

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Gibraltar and Japan Tobacco International agree to tackle smuggling

Officials in Gibraltar and UK customs authorities have teamed up with Japan Tobacco International (JTI) to protect the legitimate trade in tobacco products and foster a stable and transparent tobacco market in the British overseas territory.

The aim of the new partnership, which was agreed during the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Friday, is to prevent smugglers from trafficking JTI brand tobacco problems into Spain via Gibraltar.

The agreement will see the signees work to improve information and intelligence sharing, and result in customs workers based in Gibraltar receiving training on how to tell the difference between authentic and counterfeit tobacco products.

One of the largest importers and producers of tobacco in Europe, JTI owns numerous high-profile brands that are routinely targeted by smugglers, including Winston, Camel, Silk Cut, Benson and Hedges, American Spirit and Old Holborn.

The MoU was signed during a ceremony at Gibraltar International Airport in the presence of Chief Minister of Gibraltar Fabian Picardo, Collector of Customs of HM Customs Gibraltar John Rodríguez, and Tom Osborne, JTI Iberia General Manager.

Members of the Anti-Illicit Trade Department of JTI were also in attendance.

Picardo commented: “We welcome the signing of this MoU with JTI as we are committed to working in partnership with the tobacco manufacturers to eradicate illicit trade in tobacco products. Illicit trade fosters further criminality across frontiers, unsociable behaviour and harms legitimate business.

“We continually review our procedures and legislation to ensure proper compliance with our laws and conditions of tobacco licences by all local entities involved in the tobacco business.”

Speaking as the agreement was signed, Osborne said it is vital that the tobacco industry works with world governments to prevent the counterfeiting and smuggling of its products, noting that the illicit trade in cigarettes and rolling tobacco is an issue that “impacts tax collection, the stability of the market and promotes disrespect for the law and disrupts public security”.

Last week, UK tobacco industry trade body the TMA published the results of a poll that showed the illicit trade in tobacco products “remains resilient” in Britain.

The survey, for which 12,000 adult smokers were questioned, revealed that more than three-quarters (76%) of respondents had purchased tobacco products over the preceding 12 months on which UK tax had not been paid.

TMA Director Rupert Lewis said: “These survey findings highlight the volume and widespread availability of illicit tobacco throughout the UK and the ‘relaxed’ attitude that many consumers have towards buying and selling illicit tobacco, believing it to be a ‘victimless’ crime.”

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Canadian police smash counterfeit currency network that flooded Surrey with bogus US dollar bills

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Canadian police smash counterfeit currency network

Police in Canada have charged four people with various offences after breaking up a counterfeit currency ring that was circulating counterfeit US bills with a face value of thousands of dollars in the Metro Vancouver area.

The operation that resulted in the suspects’ arrest began at the beginning of January after the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) received multiple reports of bogus US bills being passed off to several businesses in the Newton area of Surrey, a city in British Columbia.

The investigation, which was launched after it was established that counterfeit banknotes with a face value of more than $5,000 had been circulated in the region, culminated at the end of last month with a raid on a residential property.

Officers participating in the raid discovered fake US bills with a face value of more than £12,000, an array of weapons and equipment that had been used to print the counterfeit currency.

Kaymen Winter, Tassie Winter, Mitchell Coubrough and Terita Herbert have now been charged with a number of offences, including making counterfeit currency, possession of prohibited weapons, and possession of counterfeit documents.

In a statement, Surrey RCMP Corporal David Amerlinck said: “Counterfeit currency can be particularly harmful to small independent business owners.

“The victims of this type of fraud often find themselves paying out of pocket for the financial losses. It’s affecting their business, but in many cases they are affected personally as well.”

In a separate operation, a coalition of Canadian law enforcement agencies arrested and charged two people in Ontario in connection with various transnational scams, including the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) telephone scam, the Bank Investigator scam and the tech support scam.

The CRA scam involved callers identifying themselves as CRA officials and bullying victims into paying non-existent fines or taxes.

Operating from India, the fraudsters behind the scam are thought to have been actively targeting Canadians since 2014, and are estimated to have conned victims out of more than CA$16.8 million ($12.7 million).

Gurinderpreet Dhaliwal and Inderpreet Dhaliwal have both been charged with fraud and handling the proceeds of crime.

Phone fraudsters commonly target victims while pretending to be calling from government agencies.

Last July, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) revealed that complaints to its Consumer Sentinel Network about government imposter scams had reached record levels over the spring

Back in 2016, it was reported that a prospective university student from Shandong province in China had died of a heart attack after she was conned out of her tuition fees in a phone scam.

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Europe’s ‘most wanted’ man extradited back to Romania from UK to face sex trafficking and murder conspiracy charges

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Europe’s ‘most wanted’ man extradited

A man who is thought to be the leader of a major organised crime gang has been extradited from the UK to Romania to face trial, Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) said on Friday.

Florin Ghinea, known in the underworld by the nickname Ghenosu, was arrested by NCA officers as he left a gym in Watford back in August 2018 after he disappeared from Romania that May.

Ghinea, 45, was listed at the time as being one of Europol’s most wanted men, and was being sought for questioning by police in Romania in relation to a series of crimes including human trafficking, conspiracy to murder, blackmail and money laundering.

Investigators believe he headed up a sex trafficking ring that involved Romanian women being sent to locations including Dubai, Finland and Ireland.

Ghinea is also said to have conspired to have a criminal rival murdered.

He was flown from London to Bucharest on Wednesday following the conclusion of UK extradition proceedings.

Commenting on Ghinea’s removal from the UK, Head of European Operations for NCA International Dave Hucker said in a statement: “Ghinea was arrested as a result of some excellent joint working between the NCA and Romanian law enforcement.

“His departure is a huge success, and I’ve no doubt our streets are safer as a result.”

Ghinea was placed on the Europol wanted list in May 2018, and promptly disappeared from his home in Dambovita County before Romanian police carried out a raid.

Romanian prosecutors claimed at the time that he was tipped off by a crooked police officer before investigators were able to act.

After being extradited back to his native country this week, Ghinea was taken directly to a court in Bucharest to face charges of sex trafficking, money laundering, complicity in human trafficking, and being a member of an organised criminal gang.

Images posted online by Romanian media last week showed Ghinea being escorted through Bucharest airport by masked police officers.

Speaking after the alleged kingpin was apprehended in the UK back in 2018, NCA Deputy Director Tom Dowdall said his arrest had made UK streets safer.

“Ghinea was being sought by the Romanian authorities for some extremely serious offences, including human trafficking and murder, and was quite rightly regarded as one of Europe’s most wanted,” he said.

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