National Police officers have dismantled a criminal network which, through the use of a fictitious company, falsified documentation so that people in an living illegally in Spain were able to meet the requirements of the country’s immigration law in order to obtain residence and work permits, as well as access to the whole of the Shengen Area.
Under the name Operation Fénix in Algeciras (Cádiz) and Operation Ballesta in Marbella, a total of 39 people have been arrested for their involvement in falsifying documentation, aiding illegal immigration, benefit fraud and membership of a criminal group.
Among the detainees are six people who formed the core of the organisation based in Marbella, where, through an agency hidden in the back room of a beauty salon, they offered residence and work permits to illegal immigrants living in different parts of Spain.
The other 32 people have been arrested in Algeciras, Barcelona, Gijón, Almería, Madrid, Marbella, Albacete and Granada, who have since been asked to hand in their fraudulently obtained residence permits.
The investigation started after various properties were identified in Algeciras where foreigners were registered although the owners of the properties claimed that they had not rented them out. However, fake rental contracts had been sent to Algeciras City Council electronically.
The people registered at the properties were found to have connections on the Costa del Sol and Almeria and not Algeciras and using the same modus operandi to obtain residence and work permits through a fictitious company, they were also all being represented by the same person at the local foreigners’ office.
The investigation revealed that the foreigners had contracted the services of the same person in Marbella who offered the fake documentation, for which the people agreed to pay between 2,500 and 5,000 euros.
The ‘manager’ who claimed to be an expert Spanish immigration law took advantage of their vulnerable situation, some of whom even sold assets or got into debt to be able to get the papers.
They were also offered the possibility of paying back their debts to the ‘manager’ as many of them subsequently applied for different state benefits.
Although the documents were given in Marbella, the fictitious documents had addresses in Algeciras, so that the residence permits would be requested in the province of Cadiz and not in Malaga, where the leader of the network was already known by the authorities.
In some cases, in addition to the false registrations, they were put in contact with nationals to set up marriages of convenience. In other cases they faked registration certificates from other autonomous communities including Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, the Basque Country or Valencia where, as there are co-official languages, the certificates were issued in a language unknown to the officials of the Andalusian foreigners' offices, making it difficult to verify them.
A court in Algeciras is investigating the case, which is where the detainees are expected to appear.