Heroin smugglers among suspects caught in global airport checks

THE HAGUE: An international crackdown on airline ticket fraud netted 153 people including suspected heroin smugglers, Europe's policing agency said on Tuesday.

The global sweep was to catch criminals using stolen or fake credit cards to buy airline tickets, Europol said in a statement.

But they also arrested people trying to smuggle in heroin from Latin America to Africa and Europe "frequently flying back and forth using fraudulently purchased tickets," said Europol.

Investigators uncovered the new systems smugglers were using to get to airport transit areas "in order to facilitate illegal immigration and drug trafficking", it added.

In all, 64 countries, 84 airlines and eight online travel agencies worked with law enforcement officers to carry out operations in 230 airports worldwide.

The teams reported 312 suspect transactions over the two-day operation, it added.

"As a result, 153 people were detained, denied boarding, questioned by police and criminally charged," said the statement.

"Several investigations are ongoing," it added.

Airlines, online travel agencies, credit card companies and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) worked with Europol cybercrime experts to identify suspicious transactions.

That allowed them to flag them up to law enforcement officers at airports.

Interpol, Frontex - Europe's border control agency - as well as agencies in the US and Latin America also helped the operation.

"This type of fraud poses significant security risks by potentially enabling criminals and terrorists to travel anonymously," Interpol secretary general Juergen Stock said. — AFP