Austrian police have arrested several security employees at the Vienna Airport including a Sri Lankan for allegedly smuggling illegal immigrants from Sri Lanka to the UK and the US, The Telegraph reported yesterday.
Two members of airport security staff are being held in custody on suspicion of allowing passengers without visas or proper travel documents onto flights to the UK and US.
A further 11 security staff members are being questioned by police in connection with what appears to have been a sophisticated trafficking operation.
The suspects are believed to be employees of more than one private security company responsible for different areas of airport security.
The British company G4S confirmed that one of those being held in custody is a former employee who was fired over the case.
Friedrich Köhl, a spokesman for the local prosecutor’s office, said that the two men being held in custody are a Sri Lankan and a Polish citizen.
“The suspicion is that they allowed an unknown number of foreigners to travel abroad from Austria illegally,” he said. Most of those under suspicion are Sri Lankan, as were most of the illegal immigrants involved.
Police are investigating around ten separate instances of security staff allowing passengers on board flights without the proper documentation, he said.
The smuggling was conducted entirely by the employees, and none of the companies involved are suspected of any wrongdoing, Mr. Köhl stressed.
According to unconfirmed Austrian press reports, the smugglers charged €7,000 (£5,000) to €9,000 (£6,400) per head to get illegal migrants through airport security.
The suspects are believed to have worked for different companies allowing them to pass illegal migrants through several different layers of airport security.
G4S, for instance, was only involved as a contractor for Austrian airlines carrying out hand baggage and passport checks at the departure gate.
An illegal migrant would have to pass through checks conducted by another company before he reached them.
“I can confirm that in compliance with Austrian labour law, an employee responsible for checking visa documentation at Vienna Airport on a contract with Austrian Airlines was dismissed in March following his arrest,” Graham Levinsohn, G4S’ regional chief executive for Europe said.
He added that he could not comment further as the case was in the hands of prosecutors.