Couple organised international 'luxury human trafficking' from Belgian town
A couple from Leupegem, a small town in the Belgian province of West Flanders, was discovered to be behind an exceptional luxury human trafficking operation that offered bespoke but illegal travel from Iraq and Iran to Europe, Het Nieuwsblad reports.
The couple, Ahmed A. (62) and Dorra G. (30), picked up wealthy Iraqis and Iranians and brought them to Europe in private planes with forged papers, the Flemish daily reports. Wevelgem airport served as a trafficking hub until US security services became aware of the situation.
The exceptional case of 'luxury human trafficking' was uncovered in September. The deals are thought to have been taking place for two years with private jets picking up refugees and bringing them to Europe. Asylum seekers with enough money could book a flight at Sulaymania Airport in Iraq and board the private jets provided by the couple.
A total of 20 trips took place with some flights carrying up to 20 people. Prices ranged from $10,000 to $30,000. One family with two children paid $60,000 for their flight to Europe.
The couple behind the operation ran their illegal business from a house in the small Belgian town of Leupegem. The two made considerable profits until US security services – who have a strong presence in Iraq – noticed something was off. Europol and the Belgian authorities were notified and the couple's house was raided.
Investigators found €80,000 in cash, an aircraft GPS, blank American Express credit cards, fake diplomatic passports and identity cards, fake cheques and devices to make the forgeries. At Wevelgem airport, investigators seized two private planes that the couple had recently purchased.
The couple has now been arrested and charged with human trafficking (with the aggravating circumstance that they also smuggled children), forgery, using false documents and money laundering. Three arrests have also been made in Italy concerning the case.
International Airport Kortrijk-Wevelgem, Belgium © BELGA PHOTO ROBBE VANDEGEHUCHTE