ROME – Authorities in Sicily say they have detained 15 people accused of running a high-end migrant smuggling racket that planned to bring to Italy even people sought by Tunisian authorities for alleged links to jihadist groups.
A statement from the Palermo border police says none of the passengers actually transported were such "dangerous" suspects. But it said such trips were planned.
Unlike most overcrowded migrant smuggling boats that leave Libya, the "luxury trips" organized by the group used smaller, faster boats that left from Tunisia bound for Marsala, on Sicily's western coast. The statement said the trips cost as much as 3,000 euros ($3,375) per passenger. Those detained were both Italian and Tunisians.
The smugglers were also transporting counterfeit cigarettes into Italy in the twice-a-week "shuttle" service.