France’s border police this week busted an illegal immigration ring leasing out real French passports to migrants from sub-Saharan Africa so they could enter the country, a police source has said.
The scam first came to light in November, when border agents at the main Paris airport stopped a man who had travelled from Mali on a passport that did not belong to him, the source said on Thursday.
“He told us he had paid 7,000 euros ($7,600) to fly from Bamako to Paris with an authentic French ID document,” the source said.
Police uncovered the existence of a network in the Paris region that recruited French nationals with an immigration background to “lend” out their identity papers in exchange for several hundred euros.
They then either sent their passports to somewhere in Africa by post or asked for a new passport from the French authorities with a photograph of someone else.
Investigators believe at least 250 people signed up for travel papers from the schemers, who offered their services to clients in Mali, Ivory Coast and Cameroon, often via social media.
Border police on Tuesday arrested three men and four women aged 24 to 55, all of Malian origin and suspected of running the operation, in and around Paris, the source said.
They are now hoping to identify those who shared their passports.