VIENNA (Reuters) - Private security staff at Vienna Airport are suspected of smuggling refugees, mainly Sri Lankans, through security checks onto flights to the United States and Britain, Austrian prosecutors said on Tuesday.
Police are investigating 13 private security staff operating at Vienna Airport over suspicions they abused their access to security systems. One man from Poland and another from Sri Lanka have been placed in custody pending an investigation.
British security firm G4S said one of its staff was under suspicion in the case and had been sacked. The company was working closely with authorities, it said in a statement.
“We know of 10 trafficking trips, meaning 10 flights between last autumn and February,” said a spokesman for prosecutors in the town of Korneuburg in Lower Austria province.
He declined to name any companies involved and said it was not yet clear how many people had been smuggled through security checks.
The men collected between 7,000 to 9,000 euros ($7,600-$9,800) per person, the spokesman said.
The trafficking scheme, which included using flight tickets issued to friends and acquaintances, was discovered after suspects tried to recruit a new accomplice. That person then contacted the police, the spokesman said.
One person who allegedly paid the suspects was refused entry into the United States, ringing alarm bells for authorities in Austria, the spokesman said. Human trafficking carries penalties of up to 10 years in jail in Austria.
G4S, which runs services from moving cash to protecting ships, has come under criticism for a number of its contracts, including its poor performance at the London Olympics in 2012.
Reporting by Shadia Nasralla and Michael Shields in Vienna and Li-mei Hoang in London; Editing by Katharine Houreld and Raissa Kasolowsky