Austrian Police Smash People-Smuggling Gang


Austrian authorities on Thursday said they had smashed a people-trafficking gang believed to have transported 1,800 migrants to Vienna since February.

The group was charging 250-300 euros ($270-320) per person to bring them from Serbia and Hungary, raking in more than 500,000 euros, Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner said.

A total of 17 people are under investigation, 11 of whom have been arrested.

Police have so far seized around 50,000 euros and have also impounded six vans used for transporting the migrants, each of while held 10-15 people.

The gang would also use another vehicle to go ahead of the vans to check the coast was clear, and had rented apartments in Vienna so drivers could rest between trips, said Franz Prucher, police chief in Lower Austria state.

Austria has become a major transit route for hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees heading for northern Europe this year.

It stepped up checks for people-smugglers after the bodies of 71 migrants including four children were found in an abandoned truck on a motorway near Vienna in August.

"The smugglers will continue to keep us busy in the coming months," Mikl-Leiter told a news conference, calling for the European Union to establish "legal routes to Europe".

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