BERLIN (AFP) - German police on Thursday raided a funeral parlour and 18 other Berlin locations linked to a gang suspected of using dead people's passports to smuggle illegal immigrants into EU countries.
Some 120 federal and state police took part in the coordinated dawn raids to collect evidence on charges of document forgery and human trafficking, said a police spokesman.
No arrests were made, but police confiscated a briefcase filled with German and other countries' passports as well as documents and computers from the 19 businesses and homes in the German capital.
"The special thing is the group's somewhat odd modus operandi - that people were brought to Germany with the passports of deceased persons," federal police spokesman Jens Schobranski told AFP.
He said passports were chosen based on similarities in appearance to those people aiming to illegally come to Germany.
"We have seen nine confirmed cases," where the method was used, with most of the illegal immigrants coming from war-torn Syria, Schobranski said, adding that the funeral home was owned by a Syrian national.
He said funeral parlours often offer bereaved relatives to formally wrap up all official paperwork of the dead, using their passports which officially remain the property of the issuing state.