With the support of Europol, the Austrian law enforcement authorities (Landeskriminalamt Lower Austria, CIS Vienna and other Landeskriminalämter) have dismantled an organised crime group originating from China which was involved in large-scale trafficking in human beings, cross-border trade in prostitution and criminal association.
Six suspects have been arrested in virtue of arrest warrants. Officers performed 13 house searches which resulted in the seizure of important evidence: EUR 30 000, a handgun, handwritten notes revealing the activity of the gang, forged identification cards, counterfeit money, mobile phones and computers.
Although Austrian law enforcement agencies were informed of the trafficking of some 150 women, it is believed that up to 300 women may have been trafficked by the crime group. The investigation is on-going.
Europol provided support throughout this cross-border investigation by analysing intelligence and facilitating the information exchange. In addition, Europol’s analysts were deployed on the spot to support the operational activities and to extract evidence from the mobile phones seized.
Two of the arrested suspects were responsible for the recruitment of the Chinese victims, who were lured by false promises of work as nannies or masseuses in Austria.
The victims were also requested to pay EUR 10 000 in order to obtain a visa. Instead, they were provided with forged documents and brought to Austria illegally.
The women were accompanied by a member of the crime group throughout their travel to Austria. However, after arriving in the airport in Vienna, the “escort” would vanish with the women’s identification documents and luggage and they would be picked up by another member of the gang.
Finally, the victims were placed in so-called “sex studios” owned by the gang in Vienna and forced to work as prostitutes for several weeks. Later on, the victims were transferred to other brothels in Austria.
The victims were kept under permanent observation by the criminals and threatened every time they would complain. Furthermore, they had to hand over to the criminals all the money they had earned from prostitution.