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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

FSB Says Human Trafficking Ring Broken Up

The Federal Security Service, or FSB, said Thursday that it had busted an international human-trafficking ring.

The scheme was said to involve stolen passports that were used to obtain European Union entry visas.

The trafficking ring was operated by at least 20 Ukrainians and Moldovans; it was run by a Russian government official. The enterprise involved transporting people in South East Asia and former Soviet republics through Russia and onto Europe, Channel One television reported. Law enforcement agents in Italy, Finland and Uzbekistan and at Interpol aided the FSB.

Traffickers set up front firms in cities across Russia, including Arkhangelsk, Vologda, Yekaterinburg, Izhevsk, Kaliningrad, Omsk, Ufa and Khabarovsk. The firms placed ads in local media outlets offering jobs in Europe; the plan was to lure Russians into surrendering their foreign travel passports, the FSB said.

The passports were then forwarded to travel agencies, which would then send the passports with visa applications to EU countries' consular offices in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Once the passports were returned -- with their new entry visas -- the traffickers would replace the photos in the passports with those of people who had paid between $4,000 and $6,600 for the service.