A multinational illegal prostitution network has been broken up investigators in 15 countries in an operation coordinated by Eurojust and Europol, the European police agency announced on Monday.
Six people were detained on charges related to trafficking in human beings for sexual exploitation mostly in Finland but also in Sweden.
Three of the arrests have been made in the Spanish cities of Torrevieja and Marbella, while the gang’s 60-year-old Romanian leader was arrested in Finland. Sixteen websites offering the services of 75 percent of all the prostitutes in Finland were also shut down.
The authorities first became aware of the gang’s activities in 2016 when Spanish police dismantled a network trafficking Nigerian women to Torrevieja, freeing 23 women and making 15 arrests.
In the course of the investigation police discovered a criminal network based in Spain that manages prostitution websites that have their business mainly in Finland and Sweden.
The group laundered its illicit earnings by setting up fake companies used to invest in real estate and technology.
They also spent lavishly on luxury items, such as cars and motorcycles, and bought companies in Romania, Malta, Hong Kong and Panama.
Investigators estimate that since 2010 the organisation made a profit of more than 40 million euros from their activities.
Servers of websites offering sexual services have been shut down and computers, tablets, telephones and other encrypted devices confiscated. Nearly 30,000 euros in cash, nine high-end vehicles, documentation of tax havens, fake passports, jewelry, and documents related to private contracts and bank accounts were also seized.
In addition, bank accounts opened by the organisation in Spain, Finland, Malta, Romania, Bulgaria, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Russia, Estonia, Sweden, Panama and the People’s Republic of China, have been blocked.
Eurojust set up a coordination centre at its premises in The Hague to coordinate simultaneous operations in 15 countries, allowing for real-time exchange of information. It also facilitated the issuance of several European Investigation Orders in Bulgaria, Germany, Estonia, Malta, the Netherlands, Romania and the UK.