BEIJING • A massive people smuggling operation which smuggled 3,200 people out of China and reportedly earned 220 million yuan (S$48.5 million) has been busted in Guangdong.
The operation, reportedly the biggest crackdown in China in the past decade, led to the arrest of 22 people and the discovery of more than 35,000 forged visas and 270 counterfeit official seals.
The Guangdong provincial public security authorities told Guangzhou Daily that security officials in the southern Chinese city of Jiangmen conducted the crackdown of the syndicate, said to be based in Guangdong and Fujian provinces.
Officials also froze bank accounts containing 11 million yuan.
The paper reported that the smuggling ring sent passengers, mostly young men in their 20s looking for work, to unidentified countries in North and South America.
Police were alerted to the syndicate after Shenzhen border control officials intercepted a bag in February last year, which led to the detention of one suspected syndicate member, and 12 migrants allegedly in possession of counterfeit visas for an unidentified South American country.
The ringleader, identified only by his surname Li, reportedly specialised in forging documents, said the Post. He ran a travel firm in Shenzhen, which he allegedly used to cover up the syndicate's operations.
China has gone on an aggressive crackdown on human smuggling.
In July last year, police coordinated raids in 25 different locations including in Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Jiangmen and Beijing. A total of 198 suspects were arrested, reported the Post.
Earlier this year, China also launched several campaigns to crack down on smuggling syndicates in the southern border regions of Yunnan, Guangxi and Guangdong - although they appear mainly targeted at the Uighur ethnic minority group from Xinjiang.
In January, it was reported that there had been a total of 262 cases and 1,204 suspects nabbed so far.