BONN/SIEGBURG Police have expanded their investigation of biker gang “Al-Salam 313"to include human smuggling. Prosecutors see a link between the people smuggling and forged language certificates. Three Bonn residents are being investigated.
Following a state-wide raid in North Rhine-Westphalia of the Iraqi biker gang "Al-Salam 313" on Wednesday, investigations continued on Thursday. As reported, the residence and business of a 63-year-old man from Bonn had been searched. He is accused of having been involved in the smuggling of foreigners and committing forgery. His language school in Siegburg is the object of scrutiny by police and the public prosecutor's office. And there is the question: What are his contacts to "Al-Salam 313" ?
In responding to an inquiry from General Anzeiger, Niclas von Hobe, spokesperson for the public prosecutor's office in Essen, could not "confirm" that the Bonn suspect is a member of the biker group. But suspicions were growing that the man had something to do with the organization. According to the public prosecutor's office, investigators are assuming that there is "criminally relevant contact with people from the scene and with members of “Al-Salam 313".
Two more Bonn residents under investigation
As reported, the Bonn resident is said to have deliberately manipulated language tests for foreigners in his role as managing director and test examiner in his language school in Siegburg. Among other things, he is said to have given the exam takers their questions beforehand in exchange for money. In this scam, he may have had an accomplice in Cologne who arranged foreign language test candidates for him.
On Thursday, it became known that prosecution authorities were still investigating two other persons from Bonn. Their apartments were also searched during the raid. The investigators accuse one of the two men of extortion, intimidation, and demanding money. The other suspect is accused of smuggling foreigners into the country and forging language certificates. The prosecutor did not want to say whether there was a direct link to the 63-year-old and his language school. Von Hobe: "It's a very complex situation that has yet to be clarified."
63-year-old says accusations are unfounded
Early in the morning on Wednesday, the investigators had searched the main suspect's apartment in Poppelsdorf. Afterwards they went to the school in Siegburg and to the local chapter of the German Red Cross (DRK), where some of the language tests had been carried out. Police investigators even searched the restrooms there for references to test documents. The 63-year-old told the General Anzeiger that the accusations were unfounded. He could not explain why his name had come under police radar.
Police searched 49 apartments and businesses nationwide on Wednesday, and the operations at twelve locations were directed against a total of 34 persons of suspicion. The investigators accused them of trafficking in weapons and drugs, among other allegations. During the raid, police arrested a suspect in Cologne. The public prosecutor's office reported that the suspect had been released again, however. An arrest warrant had not been filed. Police had found counterfeit money on the man.
Link between human smuggling and forged language certificates
Following the raids, investigators are certain that language certificates have been forged not only in Siegburg. "The smuggling in of foreigners and the counterfeiting offenses are often connected", says the public prosecutor's office. Investigators are still trying to determine the scope of the crimes. "The evidence is now being examined," says von Hobe about the computers, mobile phones and data seized. Given the size of the case and the amount of items seized, this will take some time.
(Orig. text: Alexander Hertel, Jörg Manhold; Translation: ck)