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Spain smashes gangs forging residency papers for Brits

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AFP/The Local - [email protected]
Spain smashes gangs forging residency papers for Brits
The suspects face charges of membership in a criminal organisation, aiding illegal immigration and document fraud. (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

Spanish police said Thursday they had smashed two crime rings suspected of helping British citizens illegally obtain residence permits by providing them with forged documents at a cost of €1,600 per person.

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Officers arrested 47 people when they moved against the two gangs operating in the southern beach resort of Marbella and the Spanish enclave of Ceuta in North Africa, said a police statement.

They allegedly provided Britons with fake versions of the documents needed to qualify for residency, such as rental contracts, bank statements and bills, the statement added.

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"Both networks, which had no links between them, used the same modus operandi to regularise British nationals, obtaining a profit of around €1,600 per person," it said.

British citizens lost the automatic right to live and work in Spain when Britain's exit from the European Union came into force in 2021.

But under the so-called Withdrawal Agreement, Britons who could prove they were living in Spain before the end of 2020 though documents such as rental contracts or bank statement could obtain residency.

Police said officials had so far identified 120 requests for residency under this agreement that had been backed by false documents supplied by the two rings.

At least three of the requests were from "criminals who aimed to hide" in the southern province of Málaga on Spain's Costa del Sol, home to a huge British community.

Among those arrested were three of the suspected heads of the gang that operated in Marbella, and two of the leaders of the ring from Ceuta.

The suspects face charges of membership in a criminal organisation, aiding illegal immigration and document fraud.

There were around 290,000 Britons legally living in Spain in 2022, according to national statistics office INE, making them the fourth largest foreign community in the country. According to other stats based on town hall censuses, the number is considerably higher: around 400,000.

 

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