an international network provided false documents to Colombian farm workers

Colombian workers harvesting asparagus or Landes tomatoes. The phenomenon appeared around ten years ago to compensate for the difficulty in recruiting French people for these difficult tasks. A criminal network had found a way to take advantage of it. For payment, he organized the journey of illegal immigrants between South America and Spain, smuggled them to France and provided them with false Spanish papers.

Monday June 10, 45 French police officers simultaneously carried out nine arrests in Talence (Gironde), Bidache (Basque Country) and Luxey, Parentis-en-Born and Biscarrosse (Landes). The services of the Office for Combating Smuggling of Migrants (Oltim) in Hendaye were assisted by two dog teams and four Spanish police officers, including a specialist in false papers. At the same time, three arrests took place in Spain, in Malaga and Barcelona. The searches resulted in several thousand euros in cash and several dozen false Spanish identity cards being found.

The operation was held under the aegis of Europol, the European Union’s police cooperation agency.

Border police

Stolen ID cards

The fruit of a year and a half of investigation, in collaboration with the Spanish and Colombian authorities, within Europol. At the end of 2022, the Mutualité sociale agricole des Landes sends identity documents to the police for verification. Around ten Spanish identity cards turn out to be fake. The arrest of their holders, Colombian workers employed in the Landes, in Labouheyre and Parentis, puts investigators on the trail of the counterfeiters.

Telephone tapping, surveillance and shadowing made it possible to outline the organization of a lucrative and structured network. At its head, two women of around 45 years old, of Ecuadorian and Colombian nationality. Would-be immigrants had to pay 1,000 euros for the trip from Colombia. Once in Spain, drivers took them across the French border, via the most discreet Pyrenean passes. Direction the Landes.

On site, the suspects offered false papers. 1,000 euros for a fake Spanish ID card. 1,000 euros, then 250 euros per month, for a digital document created using an authentic identity card, stolen from the Iberian Peninsula. A Colombian forger was responsible for only modifying the photo. These fakes were almost undetectable.

100,000 euros repatriated to Colombia

The organization dates back to at least 2021. Since then, at least 100,000 euros have been repatriated to Colombia. Olivier Janson, public prosecutor of Mont-de-Marsan, requested the opening of a judicial investigation.

Several thousand euros in cash were seized during the searches.

Border police

Eight of the nine suspects were indicted for aiding the illegal stay of an organized gang, aggravated money laundering and providing false documents. Five of them were imprisoned, including the two alleged organizers. Three are placed under judicial supervision. Among those prosecuted are two drivers, a tout responsible for finding customers for the false papers, an intermediary with the Colombian forger and a forger. One of them was wanted in Spain where he must serve a nine-year prison sentence.

The investigation is now continuing under the auspices of an investigating judge. The investigations focus in particular on identifying the bank accounts held by the suspects in Spain. They are numerous.



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