German High-End Smuggling Network Uncovered

Hamburg police officers running on street (Photo Geni Hoka /

Ten individuals, including members of the governing SPD and opposing CDU parties, were apprehended in Germany on April 17 as part of a massive police operation targeting a people-smuggling ring suspected of obtaining residency fraudulently for approximately 350 individuals, the majority of whom were Chinese nationals.

Over a thousand officers from various law enforcement agencies and the German federal police conducted searches of 101 residential and commercial establishments throughout the eight-state operation.
The federal police accuse the people-smuggling gang of taking advantage of special regulations for foreign skilled workers in order to obtain residence permits. The incursions targeted more than two hundred properties throughout Germany in an attempt to apprehend individuals believed to be affiliated with the smuggling ring. This likely involved 147 smuggled individuals and 38 members of the gang.

The potential aggregate cost of the smuggling operation is €360 000.

The primary suspects are believed to have utilized the funds for various purposes, including establishing fictitious businesses, financing purported residences, and fabricating purported wage disbursements.
The investigators further demonstrated that the law firms were to receive “consultancy fees” amounting to a maximum of €30,000. According to the Bild, multiple immigration office employees were bribed by the gang.
The ten suspects were apprehended in North Rhine-Westphalia, the westernmost state where the operation was concentrated. Approximately 210,000 euros in cash and “extensive evidence” pertaining to the case were seized during the sweeps.

Politicians in the Spotlight

Three politicians affiliated with the socialist SPD and the center-right CDU  have been apprehended on suspicion of participating in a smuggling network that aided affluent foreigners—primarily Chinese and Arab nationals—in unlawfully acquiring permanent residence permits for, in the majority of cases, six-figure sums.

In response to an information request on the case put forth by the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) parliamentary group, North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) Justice Minister Benjamin Limbach (Greens) identified Jens Broke of the center-left SPD and Werner Stump of the center-right CDU as individuals who were apprehended on suspicion of accepting bribes from the smuggling network. Both commercial and gang-related smuggling of foreigners is suspected of the suspects. They are also alleged to have “helped a large number of nationals from non-EU and non-Schengen states to enter and permanently reside in Germany over a longer period of time.

Accused Have Excellent Networks

The suspects apparently include several lawyers from the Cologne area as well as an SPD official from the district of Düren, Jens Bröke, who is accused of bribery. Other accused is an ex-politician: the former district administrator of the Rhein-Erft district, Werner Stump. His lawyer’s representative confirmed this to WDR and explained that Stump denies all allegations. His contacts with China had served exclusively to promote business. In 2017, Stump, together with Chinese partners, founded the “German-Chinese Trade OHG,” which in 2020 went on to acquire an almost 95% stake in VSH Villa Sophienhöhe Hotel. The second CDU politician has so far yet to be named.

The network, described by some media as a “luxury smuggling ring”, is said to have focused in particular on Chinese nationals and interested parties from Oman and South Africa, South Africa and India . With a kind of all-round carefree package, they are said to have sold residence permits to people without any complications.
Evidently, the affluent foreigners were enlisted through a”residence program,” advertised on the internet, as stated by investigators. In addition to advocating for the German health and education systems, that location also extended the offer of German citizenship. The residence act’s provisions that exempt self-employed individuals and professionals were taken advantage of.

Strict Penalties for the Offenders

The allegation is founded upon the illicit and commercial transportation of foreign nationals in bands, as well as the bribery and corruption of local government personnel. Commercial smuggling is punishable by maximum prison terms of fifteen years.
Germany’s Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) said about the raids: “Now it’s a matter of shedding light on all the backgrounds and putting a stop to these structures of organized crime.” In the fight against smuggling gangs, “exactly this high pressure of investigation and this consistent crackdown” is needed. NRW Interior Minister Herbert Reul (CDU) said: “This is a good and important investigative success against a gang that wants to line their pockets with residence titles.”

Limbach, who has also expressed strong opposition to the corruption of public servants, states that effective action will not be taken until the public prosecutor’s office concludes its investigation into the smuggling gang and its public servants.
Consequently, in the state parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia, the AfD parliamentary group demanded a timely debate. The AfD parliamentary group was subsequently subjected to considerable criticism. Some Members of Parliament recalled the recent accusations of espionage against Maximilian Krah, a Chinese AfD politician.

As we previously reported, the leader of the Iraqi Kurdish gang and five of the operation’s principal organizers were apprehended by Europol in Germany, where the people-smuggling operation was planned.
Throughout Germany, federal law enforcement agencies documented 4 936 instances of human smuggling in 2022. This signifies a nearly 30 percent growth in comparison to the preceding year.


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