The Judicial Court of the Judicial District of Lisboa Norte has sentenced two Portuguese nationals, members of a criminal organisation investigated by the Immigration and Borders Service (SEF) in 2019, to seven and five and a half years of effective imprisonment for association to assisting unlawful immigration, assisting unlawful immigration, canvassing of illegal labour and using illegal labour as well as extorsion. A third member of the organisation has been sentenced to two years of effective imprisonment.
SEF investigation has resulted in the operation “Estufa Fria", held in July 2019, where leaders of the criminal organisation have been detained (and in custody since then), dedicated to the transport to the national territory of illegal staying Eastern Europe nationals to employ them in farms, in exchange of high amounts of money. Their action would be centralised in the area of Torres Vedras and Coimbra.
The remainder defendants, natural persons, have been sentenced to suspended imprisonment. Of the defendants as corporations (farming companies), six have been sentenced to fines in a total of about 350 thousand euros.
It should be recalled that during the operation “Estufa Fria", about 20 foreign nationals have been detected in a vulnerable situation and illegally staying, amongst which two underaged of 16 and 17 years-old. The citizens were brought to the national territory, mostly by road, on buses, and then put to work into farms, greenhouses, deprived of decent working conditions, most of which without a wage whatsoever.
In some situations, they ended up by being extorted by the criminal organisation, using violence, through words and actions against the physical integrity of the citizens.
In the operation held in July 2019, which had the cooperation of the Republican National Guard, about 30 SEF inspectors have participated, and four arrest warrants have been executed, five house search warrants, two search warrants to vehicles and one search warrant to an establishment, in which two high range vehicles have been apprehended, about 6 thousand euros of several material of proof such as mobile phones and laptops.