French court convicts 14 of migrant smuggling

A court in northern France jailed 14 members of a migrant smuggling ring

French court convicts 14 of migrant smuggling
Migrants boarding a people smuggler's boat on a beach near Dunkirk. (Photo by Sameer Al-DOUMY / AFP)

A court in northern France has sentenced 14 Sri Lankan nationals to prison for operating a migrant smuggling ring across Europe, as authorities across the continent try to crack down on the lucrative criminal networks.

The main suspect, accused of overseeing the operation from a grocery store in the village of Serifontaine, was handed a four-year prison term, with one year suspended.

Investigators determined that he set the prices and routes for moving migrants from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh across the continent from Ukraine, with the help of bribes to officials in Eastern Europe.

Another suspect, who is based in Britain but fighting extradition requests, was given a five-year sentence by the court in Beauvais, while the others were given lesser prison terms.

Smuggling gangs have flourished as increasing numbers of migrants have headed for Europe in recent years, with many hoping to cross the English Channel to Britain.

More than 45,000 migrants crossed the Channel from mainland Europe in 2022, surpassing the previous year’s record by more than 17,000, according to British government figures.

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French police seize 2.4 tonnes of cannabis near Bordeaux

France’s Economy Minister has praised the work of Bordeaux law officers, after they seized more than 2.4 tonnes of cannabis resin with an estimated street value in excess of €19 million.

French police seize 2.4 tonnes of cannabis near Bordeaux

Bruno Le Maire and Minister Delegate in charge of Public Accounts Gabriel Attal in a joint statement: “Once again, Customs distinguished itself with an exceptional seizure of cannabis, recalling its key role in the fight against drug trafficking. We congratulate the customs officers for their daily commitment to the protection of our fellow citizens.”

Two people were taken into custody after officers stopped a lorry from Spain on the A63, near the Saugnac-et-Muret toll area, just south of Bordeaux, on Monday.

According to Le Figaro, the drugs were hidden in side compartments of the lorry, and concealed by its stated load of wheat, and were discovered by a sniffer dog during the stop.

In total, 2,414.8kg of cannabis resin and 9.75kg of cannabis herb were intercepted by the Bordeaux brigade, with an estimated value of more than €19 million on the illicit market.

Since the end of July, 2022, Customs officials have seized nearly 73 tonnes of drugs, including 41.2 tonnes of cannabis.

The French drugs squad is now investigating to determine the point of origin of the drugs, as well as their destination and the crime network behind the smuggling attempt.