Written by 4:25 pm Society

Spanish police arrest suspects in scamming Moroccan families of missing migrants

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Spanish police arrested on Wednesday 14 individuals suspected of scamming families of missing migrants from Morocco and Algeria, promising to find their bodies, identify them, and repatriate them for a fee.

According to Spanish authorities, the network lured victims by advertising its services on social media platforms. 

It is alleged that the group had been in contact with relatives in Morocco and Algeria for several years, whose family members were missing and feared to have perished at sea while attempting to reach the Spanish coast in small boats.

The suspected ringleader is a Moroccan who allegedly used his connections in North Africa to assure families that his assistance was genuine. 

Police raided 13 homes and seized approximately 70,000 euros in cash, cars, and documents in the regions of Murcia and Almería in the southern Mediterranean and the region of Khayyan.

According to El Pais, among those arrested was Francisco Clemente, whose photos of dead migrants on social media accounts did not go unnoticed. 

For years, Clemente circulated dozens of images showing bodies washed ashore or in the morgue, all deceased during their journey on makeshift boats to Spanish shores. 

Clemente realized that such sensitive and inaccessible material was a valuable asset to make a business profit from the dead of irregular immigration. 

With these photographs of corpses and other information, Clemente became a reference point for hundreds of Algerian and Moroccan families who had lost track of their loved ones while attempting to migrate to Spain. 

Clemente created the “Heroes del Mar” (Heroes of the Sea) account on social media in mid-2020, amassing over 150,000 followers from whom he solicited donations. 

The same photos that initiated Clemente’s enterprise raised alarms with the Civil Guard, leading to an investigation resulting in his arrest along with 13 others. 

Two detainees, the owner of a funeral home and the driver of another hearse, remain in custody without bail. Fran, released on bail, had his passport confiscated. 

Authorities have identified around fifteen suspects, including several funeral home owners, forensic assistants, and Cartagena Institute of Legal Medicine officials. 

According to investigations, Fran is suspected of being part of a cartel that competed for the bodies of migrants. 

The scheme charged between 3,000 and 10,000 euros for providing information to families and identifying and repatriating the deceased.

The Civil Guard stated that the suspects offered to mediate with Spanish authorities for money, using their connections with public employees in the medical services sector to obtain photos of migrant corpses in some cases. 

The accused allegedly asked families to provide personal details of the missing based on false promises to carry out various services, including searching, filing complaints, preparing DNA samples to identify bodies, and translation services.

The apprehended individuals face multiple charges, including disclosure of secrets, violation of respect for the deceased, fraud, forgery, bribery, and membership in a criminal organization, among other accusations.

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