On 9 May 2017, 23 searches of premises were performed in Belgium by the federal and local police services. A further 5 premises were searched in Spain by officers of the Guardia Civil. The searches in Belgium included building sites in Roeselare, Zwevezele, Antwerp, Sint-Martens-Lierde and Borsbeek. In Spain, 5 searches took place at the company offices (Valencia and Sagunto) and the homes of the suspects.
Europol specialists were deployed on the spot to support both the national authorities. As a result, 9 suspects were arrested in Belgium and 6 suspects were arrested in Spain. In total 23 potential victims of human trafficking and labour exploitation were identified. The victims were from Spain and Morocco. All were offered care and assistance by a specialist NGO.
A significant amount of evidence was seized during the operation, and will be used to further the investigation.
The modus operandi of this organised criminal group was to advertise well paid employment in the Belgian construction industry. The adverts targeted Moroccan construction workers in Spain. Once in Belgium they were housed in accommodation assessed as unfit for human habitation and forced to work for almost no pay.
Europol actively supported this extensive and complex investigation; organising operational meetings, facilitating the exchange of intelligence and providing analytical support to Belgium and Spain throughout the case. During the arrest phase, Europol specialists in trafficking human beings and illegal immigration undertook real-time cross-checks of the data gathered using a mobile office and data extraction device.