Police in Spain and three other European nations have broken up a gang that obtained residency permits for undocumented Pakistani men by organising fake marriages with Portuguese women, Spanish police said Tuesday.
The Europe-wide ring's leader was among 26 people arrested.
He was nabbed in February in Barcelona, Spanish police, who carried out the investigation with their counterparts in Portugal, Britain and France, said in a statement.
Seven suspected members of the network were arrested in Portugal, where the ring hired women to enter into marriages of convenience, while eleven suspected members were detained in France, where the ring had a branch recruiting illegal Pakistani immigrants.
Another seven suspected members of the group were detained in Britain.
"To legalise Pakistani immigrants, they organised marriages of convenience with Portuguese women who were hired by the organisation," the police statement said.
The group operated in Spain, France, Portugal, Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands.
Police also suspect the group of bank fraud and document falsification.
Spanish police said the group would take Portuguese nationals to France where they would open up bank accounts with large amounts of money under false names to gain the confidence of bank managers.
The Portuguese nationals recruited by the group would then request loans which they never paid back and then abruptly close the bank accounts.
The bank fraud operation was run by a member of the group in Britain.