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  • The Paladins

Europe's dodgy airports


Are you looking to enter the Schengen Zone with no papers, forged papers, and/or an INTERPOL warrant against you, or are you carrying large quantities of merchandable contraband, such as cocaine bricks or boxes of handguns, or ludicrous amounts of cash (e.g. USD1 million)? Do you prefer to travel by air? This is no problem. Just follow our handy and straightforward guide to Europe's dodgiest airports. No problem is too large.


All these airports are in the Schengen Zone. Another approach is to fly into a non-EU state adjacent and then journey overland; but that is beyond the scope of this essay as it typically carries a different set of risks for the international criminal.


Sion


Sion takes chartered flights (e.g. private jets) only.


If you land outside regular Swiss Monday to Friday working hours, there will be nobody there at all.


Your pilot needs sufficient proficiency to land in an often foggy valley surrounded by mountains, quite possibly at night, without the assistance of Air Traffic Control. He or she will need to study the problem but it is not insurmountable.


All Swiss airports also have the curious rule that there are no limits on the amount of cash you can import into the country. So if you have a briefcase full of Dollars, Swiss airports are the place for you. (Note that leaving Switzerland, a EUR10,000 cash maximum in theory exists,but it is seldom controlled or enforced.)


If you have an international warrant against you, the Swiss Police will typically arrive to arrest and detain you within 12-24 hours of check-in to any hotel or other accommodation where you give your name. Switzerland is very joined up. Hotels in remote places may not take any registration details from you at all if you just show up and pay in cash.


Charleroi


Located in Wallonia (French-speaking southern Belgium), this airport is principally for charter flights. You are unlikely to meet any immigration or customs officials, particularly if you fly in outside regular working hours.


Mind you it is a long way from Brussels. So ignore the 'Bruxelles Charleroi' moniker.


Luxembourrg


Passport scan unlikely. Customs non-existent. However very few airlines fly here apart from Air Luxembourg, which has a restricted service mostly to and from other Schengen Zone destinations.


If you fly in with a chartered plane, it is very unlikely that anyone will stop you, again particularly outside regular working hours.


Monaco Heliport


There are no checks here (and you can travel to France or Italy on foot over unmanned borders, or with a local train on which there are no checks).


However it has the obvious inconvenience of only accepting helicopters, that are expensive and of linited range. (We have no idea what happens if you try to fly an Osprey into Monaco Heliport.)


However you might fly into Monaco Heliport from your luxury yacht's helipad. That yacht might just be moored on the High Seas, outside formal Monagesque territorial waters. In such circumstances, if the yacht's owner is affiliated with the President of the Russian Federation you should be lucky and immigration and customs formalities may be totally absent. On the other hand, should the yacht's owner meet some other less rosy description of his relationship with the President of the Russian Federation, then immigrations and customs officers may be out in all force and then your life may take a highly inconvenient turn.


You have been warned.


Andorra


Delightfully obscure, practically speaking for private jets only. (There is a weekly scheduled flight to Madrid but there is no conceivable reason why you would want to take it.)


No checks. You'll be lucky if you see a lavatory cleaner.


Slightly tricky to land at due to terrain and wind.


Lugano


Except when scheduled flights are due, this airport is essentially unstaffed. You can walk through the passport control booths without anyone being there.


Even if you land on a scheduled flight, you may well not get a scan and certainly nobody is going to ask you any questions about anything.


Customs control is virtually zero. There is a duty free store there selling luxury Swiss watches and diamonds, but nothing more.


Amsterdam


Amsterdam Schiphol is super if you have an international arrest warrant against you. In all likelihood the immigration officials will swipe your passport, inform you that there is an international warrant against you, and then let you proceed on your way.


We have heard several reports of this. The Dutch do not seem to consider international arrest warrants as binding on them - at least, not at Schiphol.


The Netherlands is so notoriously sketchy that the Germans typically do passport and customs checks on their land borders with the Netherlands, even though under the terms of the Schengen Agreement they are not supposed to.


Klagenfurt


Hardly any flights land here. You are very unlikely to get a passport scan unless you look dodgy.


There are no customs controls to speak of.


Landing here requires skill on the part of the pilot due to the mountainous environment and potential high winds.


Athens


At Athens airport there are no checks against databases of international warrants: a remarkable lacuna. Also you may get away with a fake European passport (but don't risk it - if you are flying on a fake passport, choose that of some third country not joined up to the Schengen system).


Athens customs may be on the lookout for cash. (Remember that the country is insolvent because people do not pay their taxes.)


Le Touquet


Typically only for light propellor aircraft. Nobody checks anything here.


Annemasse


This is a good one, in France just over the Swiss border with Geneva. There's nothing there at all. Warning: short runway. Particularly given the proximity of the Alps, land with caution.


French hotels transmit guest lists to the Police National every 24 hours. If your name appears on an international warrant list, the Police will come to arrest you promptly. Then you can have some fun in French prisons and before French courts.


Bari


A lot of Italian airports are notoriously lax; This one excels. Outside office hours or scheduled flight arrival times, there may not be anyone there at all.


Good for private jets.


ibiza


Notoriously lax for both Schengen and non-Schengen arrivals. Departures are a bit more organised but even small quantities of drugs will be ignored.


There is an infamous bathroom just before security control, where everyone goes to finish snorting their cocaine before proceeding through security checks. Try to visit that lavatory while passing through. It is hilarious; all you can hear is snorting sounds coming from every cubicle.


Warning: hotels throughout Spain do submit daily guest lists to the Police, who wil come over and arrest you before you have even got to your room if you are on an INtTERPOL or other similar list. You will then be incarcerated in a Spanish prison (pretty rough arrangements) for many months pending the legal proceedings, save in the most exceptional cases.


Do not go to Spain to evade international warrants. That game was over several decades ago.


Geneva General Aviation Terminal


Nobody knows about this except light aircraft enthusiasts. It is not the same as Geneva private jet terminal - there they will scan your passport. Geneva General Aviation Terminal is around the back of the airfield, hidden from view, and for the exclusive use of light propeller aircraft such as Cessna-172's and the like. You need to make a special appointment to land there in an extremely small plane.


There is a desk ostensibly for immigration, but it is seldom manned and a passport swipe is unlikely. You may have to show something looking like a passport but that is it. There is nothing in the way of customs control. So you can pack your Piper Warrior up with large bricks of cocaine.


Trondheim


You are unlikely to get more than a cursory look at your passport if you fly in at unusual hours. It's a good option for private jets.


Customs control is negligible.


Final remark: Germany


Germany is by far the most organised country in Europe in apprehending international criminals. International warrants will be enforced at German airports even if you do not pass a Schenge border (i.e. you are just ',in transit'). All passports are always swiped. Even flying intra-Schengen, you may be arrested for illegal overstay by virtue of the airline transmitting your details automatically to the federal police for every flight that lands or takes off in Germany.


The same is true for hotels and all other forms of accommodation, at all of which guests must be registered and national Police computers will continue to crunch the same files daily for evidence of any illegality in the terms of Schengen entrance appropriate to your nationality, international warrants etcetera. You can expect to be arrested within half an hour if you stay in any registered accommodation in Germany with a warrant hanging over you.


The same is also true of trains where you pay by credit card or otherwise give your name when booking your ticket. And officers may execute road stops on vehicles with licence plates associated with suspects or criminals. It all happens automatically: your licence plate is flashed and then the Police are waiting for you 2km down the road.


The German police even have facial identity recognition software for known fugitives using CCTV in places like coffee shops,restaurants, bars, railway stations etcetera.


The German police are astonishingly efficient and the country's legal system is notoriously horrible. If you are an international criminal, stay away from Germany.


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We welcome all additions or corrections, via our usual means of communications. This article is not intended to help people break the law. Its purpose is to point out obvious holes in the Schengen 'fence', so that Schengen member states may be pressed into closing then.


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