Illegal immigrants ‘paid up to €20,000’ for Dublin Airport scam

Three men, including two Aer Lingus staff, due in court over alleged people-smuggling

Three men, including two Aer Lingus employees, have been arrested in connection with alleged immigration offences at Dublin Airport.

Three men, including two Aer Lingus employees, have been arrested in connection with alleged immigration offences at Dublin Airport.

 

Gardaí believe fees of up to €20,000 were paid by people smuggled into Ireland by an international crime syndicate suspected of exploiting security at Dublin Airport.

In an apparently embarrassing breach at the airport, it is believed people who had paid to be smuggled into Ireland disembarked flights and bypassed immigration and security checks with the co-operation of a small number of staff.

Investigations are continuing to pinpoint the exact modus operandi of the scam but gardaí believe those being smuggled were disguised as staff members by wearing hi-vis vests and branded clothing worn by workers.

Once kitted out in attire that enabled them to mix with staff unnoticed, they were taken from airside to landside, effectively entering the State by staff routes on the airport campus which bypass immigration and customs checkpoints.

Gardaí believe the people being smuggled could have been driven landside by members of staff with access to vehicles.

They also suspect that at least some of those who were smuggled were accompanied by escorts who guided them to pick-up points immediately on landing to facilitate their bypassing of immigration checks.

Co-operation

Three men arrested at the airport on Sunday were being detained at Ballymun and Coolock Garda stations.

Aged 61, 56 and 28, they are due to appear at Dublin District Court today charged with immigration offences.

Gardaí anticipate further arrests in Ireland in connection with the scam.

Assistant commissioner John O’Driscoll said “significant co-operation” was being offered from Aer Lingus as well as the Dublin Airport Authority.

Of the three men arrested, two are Aer Lingus employees, and the other is a suspected illegal immigrant.

Gardaí believe a Chinese national was part of the scam which they fear has been ongoing for some time, perhaps for many years, undetected.

Garda sources said a review of security at the airport and at other airports and ports would now be required and that the movement of staff around such facilities may become much more restricted.

“The important thing now is that we caught it; this is going on a while and we have been working on it for a long period and we believe we have discovered something very significant,” said one source.

Bogus agency

A suspected bogus travel agency in Rome is being investigated for offering logistical support to the scam.

The Garda National Immigration Bureau and the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service worked together on the investigation, which was trying to determine if properties linked to the suspects may have been used as safe houses or transit points.

However, some sources believed that once the people were brought into the country after posing as ground staff the “smuggling transaction” would be completed in most cases.

There are concerns that the illegal smuggling of people may not have been the only reason for the scam, with gardaí fearful that drugs, large sums of cash and firearms may have been brought into the country.

However, that had yet to be established and the Garda said it remained unclear whether people had been smuggled in for exploitation purposes – specifically for forced labour or the sex trade.

In recent month, British authorities expressed concern that security at entry points into the Republic was not sufficiently robust.