Maribor – The Maribor Prosecutor’s Office has filed charges against five former border police officers who were arrested in February 2020 over suspicion that they had stamped the passports of third-country nationals to allow them to unlawfully prolong their stay in the Schengen zone beyond the permitted 90-day period, Večer newspaper reported Wednesday.
The former police officers are charged with committing illegal crossing of the state border, complicity in illegal crossing of the border and with taking bribes.
They are said to have been part of an international ring that stamped the passports of citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina, North Macedonia and Serbia, who most likely worked in an EU country without a work permit, as they crossed the Schengen border between Croatia and Slovenia.
The five were employed at the Maribor Police Department working at two border crossings with Croatia, which is yet to join the Schengen zone.
Four of them were detained but released a month later as there was no risk of repeating the offences given that their employments were terminated soon after the arrests.
In March 2020, the Maribor District Court allowed the prosecutor’s office to open an additional investigation – known as judicial investigation – into the case.
The investigation was completed only in February this year, having been partly delayed by coronavirus measures.
A month later, the prosecutor’s office filed charges against all five ex-police officers, but since they appealed them, the charges are not yet final, said Večer.
It was not clear at the time of the arrests how much the corrupt officers had earned with the help of the scheme, but EUR 90,000 in cash had been discovered during house searches along with 19 passports ready for stamping.