Two year investigation leads to arrest of suspected migrant smuggler

19 April 2023
International operation disrupts migrant smuggling cell

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – A suspected member of an organized criminal group involved in document fraud and migrant smuggling has been arrested by the Brazilian Federal Police (BFP).

The 50-year old Iranian national had been on INTERPOL’s radar since the beginning of 2021 following initial reports from the Dominican Republic. According to these reports, Iranian nationals had been detected attempting to cross borders using fake Canadian passports.

The initial inquiries revealed that the Iranian nationals had travelled in small groups from Asia and the Middle East to Brazil, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic before reaching their final destinations in Canada and the United Kingdom.

Brazilian authorities confirmed that the fake passports cost the migrants between USD 30,000 to 60,000.


Intelligence reveals links between migrant smuggling investigations

Intelligence gathered by the General Secretariat’s Human Trafficking and Smuggling of Migrants unit prompted a task force meeting with participants from the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Canada, Colombia and the United Kingdom.

The case was code-named Operation JANO, in reference to the two faces of the Roman God.

Information exchange and international cooperation between INTERPOL’s National Central Bureaus and specialized agencies from Brazil, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Dominican Republic, and the United Kingdom, was vital in disrupting this migrant smuggling cell in South America.

INTERPOL’s criminal analysis files and the valuable intelligence contributed by partners such as Europol, also helped identify links between this case and other investigations. The links found with other investigations suggested that this criminal group was operating in other regions too including Europe.

INTERPOL’s Human Trafficking and Smuggling of Migrants unit supported national authorities by hosting virtual interviews with migrants who had paid for the suspect’s services in the past. This in turn enabled Brazilian authorities to identify him as the main person facilitating irregular migration from origin to destination countries.

“Migrant smugglers are becoming more and more organized, establishing professional networks that encompass all regions.” Ilana de Wild, INTERPOL’s Director of Organized and Emerging Crime

“The large-scale smuggling of migrants across international borders represents a global threat to the well-being of migrants and national security.

Criminals are also increasingly using fraudulent travel documents to evade detection and commit further criminal activities,” added Ilana de Wild.

Partnerships – key to fighting migrant smuggling

“This arrest is the result of successful investigative work carried out at national and international level. We can only effectively fight migrant smuggling by partnering with other law enforcement agencies. INTERPOL has a crucial role to play in this respect as it offers a range of expertise and secure police information-sharing capabilities,” said Ricardo Saadi, Director of the BFP’s Organized Crime and Corruption Directorate.

Global police investigations into this organized crime group are ongoing and INTERPOL will continue to support its member countries in locating the criminals involved and dismantling the entire network.

This operation was supported with funding from the European Commission Internal Security Fund Police (ISFP) & Borders and Visa (ISFB) in the framework of INTERPOL’s collaboration with the European Migrant Smuggling Centre.