Poland foils migrant smugglers suspected of financing armed groups

A suspected migrant trafficking network operating along the Polish-Belarusian border has been dismantled by Polish authorities. 

They are believed to have provided substantial funding to armed organisations such as Hezbollah. Earlier this week, prosecutors announced that 36 individuals from Poland, Ukraine, Iraq, and Belarus have been charged connection with the network. The prosecution revealed that the operation primarily involved facilitating the illegal migration of individuals from Iraq, Syria, and Palestine through the Polish-Belarusian border, with the ultimate destination being Germany. 

Two key figures were identified as leaders of the network: Ahmad R., a Syrian residing in Germany, and Mohammed A., also known as Abu Josef. Both are subjects of a collaborative investigation between authorities. Ahmad R., also referred to as Abu Noh, was apprehended on 23 April, according to Polish officials. The investigation was conducted in cooperation with the EU’s criminal justice agency Eurojust, with support from law enforcement agencies in Germany and the Netherlands.

The leaders are suspected of orchestrating the smuggling of migrants from Yemen, Syria, and Iran via the Balkans as well. Investigators are currently scrutinising cryptocurrency transactions approaching $600 million.

According to Polish prosecutors, these investigations uncovered transfers amounting to at least $30 million to accounts linked to Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Palestinian jihadist groups, with an additional $13 million directed to a site subject to US sanctions.

Earlier this year, the Polish border guard reported a significant increase in migrant activity on the Belarus-Poland border, with more than double the number of migrants detected in the first nine months of 2023 compared to the same period in 2022. The majority of these migrants originated from the Middle East.

Belarus, in cooperation with Russia, has faced accusations from EU member states of exploiting migration as a geopolitical tool by facilitating the transportation of migrants into Belarus and assisting their passage across EU borders. Consequently, Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania have all implemented border fortifications to deter such crossings.

 

Image: X(@Straz_Graniczna)

Author: Sébastien Meuwissen

 

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