'Main members' of criminal ring aiding illegal immigration detained

By TPN/Lusa, in News · 07-12-2019 08:00:00 · 0 Comments

Two of the "main members" of an international criminal organisation involved in aiding illegal immigration and forging documents that operated in Brazil and Europe, have been detained in Lisbon, according to the Portuguese authorities.

The Foreigners and Borders Service (SEF) states that the two men – suspected of being "two of the main members" of this "criminal organisation of an international nature" – were brought before a judge and remanded into custody.

In an operation dubbed ‘Alma Lusa’ (Portuguese Soul), the SEF said, an international ring was dismantled that had been offering false documentation and all logistics for fraudulently obtaining citizenship from a European Union member state, namely Portugal. In exchange for large amounts of money (around €20,000), it explained, the group promised the fraudulent issuing of authentic Portuguese documentation to citizens of Brazil who did not meet the requirements laid down by law.

The ring's activity had resulted in "an exponential increase" in nationality applications, according to the SEF.

The suspects, who mostly represented their "clients" while their associates in Portugal obtained from some Brazilian notaries false documentation, namely certificates issued by an archived place of birth, in which biographical data were tampered with, with a view to proving to registry offices in Portugal that certain persons met the requirements legally provided for to be granted Portuguese nationality because of their family origins.

The detainees, who are aged between 45 and 47 years, already had criminal records in the EU and Brazil, relating to the same type of criminal activity.

The ring’s "clients", once they had secured Portuguese nationality based on the false records, requested the issuance of Portuguese ID cards and electronic passports, so gaining all the advantages that come with being recognised as citizens of an EU member state.

The ring was aided by a lawyer who has also been named as a person of interest in the case and who the authorities say had a key role in the alleged fraudulent scheme.

According to the SEF, searches in the operation were carried out in two phases: the first in Greater Lisbon, from 7 to 12 November, and the second in northern Portugal, culminating in Tuesday’s seizure of several pieces of evidence of the crimes committed.

In this investigation, the SEF stresses the large number of cases dealt with by the authorities on the basis of false certificates that would enable Brazilian citizens to secure Portuguese nationality.

Other items seized include computer equipment relating the suspects to the criminal activity.

As well public prosecutors based in Lisbon and Porto, the operation has involved representatives of Portugal’s Order of Lawyers and around 50 SEF inspectors.

The investigation is now being coordinated by the Lisbon-based Central Department of Investigation and Criminal Action (DCIAP) of the office of public prosecutions, assisted by the SEF, with cooperation from Interpol, Brazil’s Federal Police, the Canadian, Mexican and French authorities and Portugal’s bureau in the European Commission’s SIRENE network (Supplementary Information Request at the National Entries).


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