Russia's top spy agency said Thursday that it had exposed a criminal ring involved in smuggling illegal migrants into France, Spain and the United States.
Sergei Ignatchenko, a spokesman for the Federal Security Service, the top KGB successor agency, said that some members of terrorist organizations had also used the channel to travel abroad.
The criminal network, that has shipped over 1,000 people abroad since 2001, involved Russian officials and airport workers whose mission was to prevent such crimes, he said in a statement.
Ignatchenko said his agency had exposed the criminal group in close cooperation with its counterparts in the United States, France and Spain.
He added that clients for the ring had come mostly from nations in southeast Asia, ex-Soviet countries and some Russian regions.
"We have information that some of the individuals who were illegally taken abroad belonged to terrorist organizations," Ignatchenko said, adding that the authorities had found lists of the network's clients.
He said that the illegal migration network had been run by two Russian citizens - Karen Gevorkian and Dmitry Kedrov. From 1999 to 2001, Gevorkian was serving a prison term in Germany for the same offense. After his return to Russia, he organized a criminal group together with Kedrov, Ignatchenko said.
Along with Gevorkian and Kedrov, several other suspected accomplices have been arrested, Ignatchenko said.
The agents have found a large number of blank counterfeit passports and stamps of various Russian law enforcement agencies. The ring charged at least US$1,000 per person for illegal transfer abroad, Ignatchenko said.
On the photo: Sergei Ignatchenko, a spokesman for the Federal Security Service