Monday, January 22, 2007

5 policemen in Macedonia arrested for people smuggling

SKOPJE, Macedonia-Five Macedonian policemen were arrested on suspicion of involvement in a criminal ring smuggling illegal migrants from neighboring Kosovo to other countries, authorities said Monday.

The suspects allegedly provided immigrants at Skopje airport with stolen Macedonian passports, Deputy Interior Minister Voislav Zafirovski said.

"We believe that the suspects are part of a large ring that operated for years," Zafirovski said. "It was a well-organized scheme."

He said the policeman were arrested after authorities at Vienna airport last week deported six Albanians from Kosovo caught trying to enter Austria with stolen passports.

If convicted, the officers face up to four years in prison.

Western diplomats have warned Macedonian authorities to fight migrant smuggling if the small Balkan country is to achieve its aim of joining NATO and the EU.

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