Thirty-eight people have been detained by Italian authorities in a crackdown on a migrant trafficking ring which used a Rome cosmetics shop as a base for illegal financial transactions, officials have said.
Police seized €526,000 (£440,700) and $25,000 (£18,800) in cash from the store.
Officers also discovered what they described as a “master book, filled with names and phone numbers of foreigners” at the shop in the Italian capital.
“It was the place where the money of migrants who wanted to reach Italy was collected,” Palermo prosecutor Francesco Lo Voi said, adding that the ring had two hubs – one in the Sicilian city and the other in Rome.
Hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers and economic migrants have reached Italy in the last few years, after being rescued at sea when smugglers’ boats foundered in the Mediterranean.
The vessels set sail from Libya, where a main base of the traffickers is located, and migrants wait in sordid conditions, often for months, for the opportunity to be crammed into the boats after paying thousands of dollars.
Palermo-based authorities said the suspects were 25 Eritreans, 12 Ethiopians and one Italian.
Investigators alleged that the ring also helped arrange “convenience marriages”.
And the ring used the same channel to smuggle in drugs, specifically khat from Ethiopia, police said.
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