Fifteen arrests were made in Cyprus, Latvia and Portugal,  as part of a recent Europol operation to dismantle a ring of sham marriages, headquartered in Cyprus.

Four of those arrested allegedly arranged more than 130 sham marriages in Cyprus, with the aim of facilitating the illegal stay of third-country nationals in EU countries.

With the aim of dismantling a criminal ring which allegedly facilitated illegal immigration and residence in the European Union through the performance of sham marriages, Europol set up an operation, with the codename “Operational Task Force Limassol”.

The operation was led by Cyprus, with the support of Latvia, Portugal and Eurojust.

From the information received and evaluated in the context of the operation, it emerged that the ring in question, in addition to sham marriages, is allegedly involved in other illegal activities, such as money laundering, conspiracy to commit a felony, conspiracy for extortion, aiding the illegal entry, transit and stay in the territory of the Republic of Cyprus, participation in an illegal organisation, participation in and acceptance of the commission of a crime, forgery, circulation of a forged document, fraudulent performance of marriage and forcing victims to perform fictitious marriages, with the aim of facilitating the illegal stay of third country nationals in European Union countries.

The authorities also secured testimony against a number of people allegedly involved in a total of 133 sham marriages, conducted in Cyprus, between women from Portugal and Latvia and men from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

On Monday, a day of joint action by the participants in OTF Limassol, the authorities of Cyprus, Latvia and Portugal conducted searches in properties and arrested a total of 15 persons, to facilitate investigations relating to the above offences.

Thirteen detainees were located and arrested in Cyprus, while one person was arrested in Latvia and one in Portugal.

Four of those arrested are the main suspects in the case. These are two persons, aged 37 and 24, who were arrested in Cyprus and the two persons, aged 45 and 26, who were arrested abroad, on the basis of European arrest warrants, issued by the Cypriot authorities.

The 13 persons arrested in Cyprus were brought before the Larnaca district court and were remanded in custody until February 7.

For the other two arrested, procedures for their extradition to Cyprus have already begun.

From the Cypriot side, the Europol National Unit, Nicosia and Larnaca CID, and the aliens and immigration service participated in the operation.

The whole operation was supported by Europol, through the exchange of information, coordination and funding of operational activities and providing direct operational support.

Investigations by Cyprus police continue.