On 2 November 2016, the Spanish Guardia Civil, closely supported by Europol, dismantled a human trafficking network involved in forced labour exploitation. The Bulgarian authorities, present during the action day, supported the Spanish authorities with the identification and assistance of the victims. As a result, 4 Bulgarian suspects were arrested on suspicion of human trafficking, and 33 victims safeguarded in Segovia and Valladolid (Spain).
The criminal group, composed of Bulgarian nationals, recruited the victims in their home country by luring them with the promise of well-paid jobs in Spain.
The victims, all originating from the region of Pleven, were transported from Bulgaria in vehicles belonging to the criminal group or by regular bus service. Upon arrival in Spain, the victims were subjected to adverse conditions, most notably debt bondage: they were expected to work to pay off the exorbitant fees for their journey to Spain. The victims were also forced to live in cramped, dirty conditions.
The victims were forced to work in citrus fields across Spain without any work contract or social security for a very low pay. The ring leaders used the wages of the workers to pay for rent, food and transport, leaving the victims with as little EUR 50.00 for 2 months’ worth of labour.
Europol supported the Spanish authorities throughout the investigation with operational analyses and the on-the-spot deployment of a mobile office and equipment allowing for the forensic extraction of operational data (UFED).