Berlin (Reuters) - Police in Germany on Tuesday arrested five people suspected of smuggling Nigerian men into the country through fake marriages, the German federal police said in a statement.
Four hundred police officers raided 41 apartments and rooms believed to be linked to the gang in Berlin and other German cities, it said. The gang's suspected leaders - four women and a man, ranging in age from 46 to 65 - were arrested.
Germany's newspaper Bild reported that a German federal police investigation conducted together with Portuguese authorities and Europol had found at least 70 men were brought in illegally through arranged marriages with Portuguese women.
Europol, the European Union's law enforcement agency, served as a host for operational meetings between the Portuguese and German investigators, the police said.
Clients had paid up to 13,000 euros ($15,550) for fake certificates, with part of the sum going to women who would fly from Portugal to join their "husbands" at the German immigration office to apply for an EU residency permit.
Similar cases were detected in June when the police found that more than 700 German men in Berlin had married pregnant asylum seekers from Vietnam, Africa and Eastern Europe for money so the mothers would obtain a residency permit and for the future babies to be born as German citizens.
The German Interior Ministry estimates there are about 5,000 such cases per year nationwide.
(Reporting By Riham Alkousaa, editing by Larry King)