European police arrested 15 members of an illegal EU migration ring in Cyprus that arranged marriages of convenience between Portuguese and Latvian women and Indian and Pakistani men, Europol said.
Two of the main ringleaders were arrested in Latvia and Portugal and 13 suspects were arrested in Cyprus, the European police agency said in a statement.
The criminal network “facilitated illegal migration into the EU via sham marriages,” it said.
The organisers “enabled the non-EU nationals to obtain residence permits from third countries, which they then used to travel to other European countries,” Europol added.
The ring allegedly recruited Latvian and Portuguese nationals and facilitated their journeys to Cyprus, where the women entered into arranged marriages with third-country nationals, Europol said.
“The suspects, mainly Indian, Pakistani and Portuguese citizens, arranged all the logistics, including the purchase of flight tickets and the acquisition of passports and other required documents,” said Europol.
The criminal network “was also involved in human trafficking and money laundering activities”, it said.
The sham marriage ceremonies took place in town halls around the city of Larnaca and the capital Nicosia.
The suspects arrested in Cyprus were being held by a Larnaca District Court until February 7.
Extradition proceedings to Cyprus had already commenced for suspects arrested abroad.