The police in Berlin and Saxony-Anhalt carried out a major raid against a gang of suspected smugglers. More than 20 apartments and offices, mainly in Berlin, were searched on Wednesday morning, according to a federal police spokesman. Five men were arrested, four of them in Berlin and one in Halle (an der Saale). A total of 18 suspects are being investigated.
The gang is said to have smuggled people from Turkey and Iraq to Germany. The people are said to have been flown from Istanbul by plane to Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina. According to the police, cars continued from there via the so-called Balkan route to Germany. At least 90 people were smuggled in this way. The gang is said to have been well organized, with members for the organization and others just being drivers. The suspects mainly have Turkish and German nationality, as the spokesman said.
400 police officers from the federal police and the Berlin police were on duty. The Berlin State Criminal Police Office (LKA) and the public prosecutor's office were also involved. Because suspects were considered aggressive and possibly also possessed weapons, the police used special task forces such as the GSG 9 of the Federal Police.
The spokesman said people were found in several apartments who may have been smuggled in. Their IDs and residency status would now be checked. The apartments searched in Berlin were in the districts of Neukölln, Mitte, Reinickendorf, Spandau, Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf and Tempelhof-Schoeneberg.
The allegations in the ongoing investigations include commercial smuggling of people. The aim of the searches was to confiscate evidence such as mobile phones and written documents. The police also wanted to secure money and other assets. Refugees usually pay a few or many thousands of euros per person to smuggling gangs.