Germany: ‘Undertakers sold passports of the dead to traffickers’

Police in Berlin have smashed a stolen passport racket which involved robbing the dead at undertakers’ parlours.

The raids, called Operation Funeral, targeted several Islamic funeral directors in the city, where police say the owners were suspected of stripping the dead of their passports to sell to people smugglers. According to the authorities, the funeral homes received payments for the passports, which were sold on again to people of similar appearance to the photographs in the documents.

They used them to gain access to Germany illegally.

Police said that 26 properties in the Neukölln, Kreuzberg and Schöneberg districts of the city, including homes and offices of funeral directors, had been searched in the operation and nine criminal investigations had been opened.

Officers found one suitcase full of passports in Rudow in south Berlin, alone, though no one has yet been arrested.

The criminal gangs behind the racket are believed to have been selling the passports on to people from Turkey and the Middle East who cannot get into Germany legally.

One media report said that nine Syrians were due to receive some of the passports.

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