On 4 June, the Portuguese Immigration and Borders Service (Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras), supported by Europol, arrested eight suspected members of an international organised criminal group trafficking human beings for sexual exploitation. The Portuguese authorities arrested eight suspects in the Aveiro area, Albergaria-a-Velha, Ílhavo and Gafanha da Nazaré. During the operation, 20 women were identified as victims of sexual exploitation.
During the operation, the Portuguese authorities searched twelve houses, twelve vehicles, two money transfer agencies and a travel agency. Six vehicles, gold, jewellery, money and false documents were seized.
The criminal group operated in Portugal and other EU Member States. The group exploited victims from unstable social and economic backgrounds, such as those with a fragile home life or suffering from alcohol, drug or domestic abuse. The women, considered as objects, were threatened and forced into prostitution to pay for the debts and commissions imposed on them by the leader of the organised criminal group.
Europol supported the investigation by coordinating the information exchange, holding operational meetings and providing on-the-spot expertise. Europol’s in-house experts also cross-checked operational information and produced an analytical report, which showed the criminal network’s geographical reach and exploited victims.