Two Syrian nationals have been arrested in the Netherlands and charged with smuggling ‘hundreds’ of people into the country via Italy, Greece, Austria and Hungary.
The main suspect is a 35-year-old man based in Eindhoven. His 26-year-old nephew was also picked up, as was an unidentified woman. She is suspected of handling the money and was released on Sunday pending further investigation, the public prosecution department said in a statement.
A 27-year-old man has also been arrested in Budapest in connection with the case.
The public prosecutor said the smuggling operation began in Turkey where people paid €7,000 to be taken to Greece or Italy. The second leg of their journey, a car trip from Italy, cost a further €700. Some of the cash had to be paid before leaving Turkey, the rest on arrival.
The investigation into the gang began a year ago and involved the authorities in Hungary, Germany, Austria and Hungary as well as Europol.
The 35-year-old man is a Syrian with refugee status. He is said to have organised the transport, cars and drivers. According to the Nos, he was making up to €120,000 a year, but demand in recent months had driven his earnings to €20,000 a week.