Spanish National Police have broken up an illegal prostitution network that trafficked Romanian women for the purposes of sexual exploitation in Spain and Germany. Sixteen people, mostly Romanian, were arrested in the towns of Alzira, near Valencia in Spain, and Saarbrucken in south west Germany.
Seventeen women were identified as victims of the trafficking network. Police in Spain seized some 8,000 euros in cash, jewellery worth 10,000 euros and three high-end vehicles during searches on properties linked to the gang.
The investigation was carried out by a Joint Research Team composed of Spanish and German authorities and coordinated by Europol under the direction of Eurojust, Spanish police said in a statement.
The operation began after a woman came forward in Spain to report being kidnapped and sexually exploited by the traffickers. In the course of the investigation it was learned the gang had set up in Valencia after being pushed out if its original base in Germany following clashes with a rival organisation.
Its modus operandi was the so-called ‘lover boy’ method, whereby traffickers establish a false romantic relationship with their victims, who are usually in precarious economic circumstances, making them promises of a better life in Western Europe. Once lured to Spain, the gang stole the women’s passports and forced them to work as prostitutes in an industrial estate near Valencia, subjecting them to strict monitoring and constant threats of violence.
The suspects have been charged with crimes of sexual exploitation, belonging to a criminal organisation, trafficking in human beings and intimidation with violence. It’s the second large-scale operation against human traffickers with a base in Spain this month, following the break up of Spanish-Lithuanian organisation that trafficked women from countries like Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova into Lithuania for prostitution.
Around 50,000 people are victims of human trafficking in Spain, mainly related to sexual exploitation. It is estimated to generate around 5 million euros per day, more than 1.8 billion euros a year, making it the second most lucrative illicit business in the world, behind only drug trafficking.