On the night of 4 September 2014, Austrian law enforcement authorities, with the support of Europol and Romanian authorities, ran an operation to identify victims of trafficking in human beings (THB) for sexual exploitation and to also identify members of the criminal networks involved.
Several different locations in the Austrian state of Carinthia, including 31 brothels and 8 apartments, were checked, which resulted in the identification of 143 women exercising prostitution, mainly originating from Romania and Bulgaria. Of those, 13 were identified as potential victims of trafficking. An additional 46 associated individuals were checked and 13 male subjects were identified as suspects thought to be involved in THB.
These actions took place in the framework of a long-running investigation into an organised crime group involved in trafficking young women from Eastern Europe and the Western Balkans into Western Europe for the purpose of sexual exploitation. The investigation was launched in 2013 when the activities of the criminal group were detected across different European countries. Cooperation between Austrian authorities and the other countries involved (Austria, Germany, Romania and Switzerland) ensured good progress in the investigation, including the identification of suspects and a number of victims. An initial field operation carried out by Austrian authorities on 20 May 2014 resulted in the positive identification of a number of potential human trafficking victims that were being sexually exploited in brothels.
Europol has actively supported this operation by facilitating information exchange throughout the investigation and providing operational analytical support during the day of action through real time cross-checks of all data gathered through the deployment of the mobile office in Austria. Europol also contributed to this investigation earlier this year by facilitating an operational meeting in Austria to better promote coordination between the countries involved.