If the accusations are confirmed, the Cologne Foreigners’ Office will be rocked by a scandal: during a large-scale raid against a suspected smuggling gang, two men and a woman were arrested on Thursday
As the public prosecutor’s office in Cologne and the Federal Police NRW further announced, the woman is an employee of the Cologne Foreigners’ Office. According to information from the “Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger”, it is said to be a group leader of the authority, who has already been working there for about three decades. “Most recently in the middle management level, with access to numerous systems and files, which made the fraud possible in the first place,” security circles say.
Raid against smugglers: arrest warrant issued for Cologne city employee
At the same time, according to the authorities, twelve apartments and offices in the Cologne area, Gelsenkirchen and the greater Limburg area were searched. Investigated because of the gang and commercial smuggling of Migrantinnen and Migrants. Arrest warrants issued by the Cologne District Court were available for the three people arrested. As the “Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger” learned from employee circles, the team was surprised by the raid. There was no suspicion among employees before the raid.
A total of eleven suspects are under investigation. They are alleged to have provided illegally issued identification documents to persons willing to be smuggled, mainly from Syria, in order to enable them to enter the federal territory without permission. For this purpose, the incorrect documents were allegedly taken abroad, sometimes through intermediaries, and handed over to the persons concerned. In this way, they were able to document that they allegedly had a right of residence in Germany when leaving the country.
Suspected smugglers: raids in the Cologne, Gelsenkirchen and Limburg areas
Investigating authorities further reported that the identity documents were allegedly disposed of again before entering Germany so that the persons who had entered the country could apply for asylum in the federal territory.
The employee at the Cologne Foreigners’ Office is accused of having issued the required identity documents – fictitious certificates and passports for foreigners – and of having given them to the other suspects in return for payment. According to the current state of the investigation, the woman is said to have collected about 3500 euros for each forged fictitious certificate and 4500 euros for each false passport.
So far, according to the Federal Police, 26 cases have been identified in which several thousand euros were allegedly paid per smuggling operation. Is this just the tip of the iceberg? “We don’t know yet, we are only at a relatively early stage of the investigation,” the public prosecutor’s office says. According to the current state of affairs, the smuggling “had been going on at least since January 2022.”
Thousands of euros in cash, phones and computers seized
In any case, during the searches, about 12,000 euros in cash, about 50 cell phones, several data carriers, laptops and computers, as well as numerous documents such as passports and fictitious certificates were seized. Around 250 federal police officers were deployed.
The investigations are continuing and those responsible at the City of Cologne are meanwhile taking a dive. “We cannot comment on ongoing investigations,” city spokesman Alexander Vogel let it be known upon request. “Of course, we fully support the investigating authorities. If allegations raised are confirmed, consequences under labor law will be examined on the part of the city of Cologne.”
The city also left unanswered on Thursday the question of whether a four-eyes principle is normally used when issuing documents, so that no passports can be issued uncontrolled.