TBILISI -- Dozens of Georgian nationals suspected of being members of organized criminal groups have been apprehended in several European Union countries.
The Georgian Interior Ministry said on February 10 that the arrests in Italy, France, Greece, Poland, Slovenia, and Belgium were made a day earlier with the participation of Georgia's Criminal Police Department.
"Investigators found out that Georgian citizens had robbed apartments in northern Italy and used finances obtained via the robberies in their attempts to start legal businesses," the ministry said, adding that the suspects also used forged documents and false identities.
Of the individuals arrested, 23 were apprehended in Italy, two in Poland, and one each in Greece, Belgium, and Slovenia. The suspects were charged with the organization of a criminal group, theft, and money laundering. If found guilty, the suspects face up to 10 years in prison.
In France, police detained 18 Georgian nationals, including one person known as a "thief-in-law," the highest title in the hierarchy among criminals in the former Soviet Union.
That group was charged with thefts, participation in criminal activities, the trading of illegally obtained properties, and the illegal sales of smuggled tobacco products. If convicted, the members of this group also face up to 10 years in prison and may be ordered to pay up to 375,000 euros ($450,000) in fines.