Europol has supported a major international operation on human trafficking led by Romania and carried out jointly with law enforcement agencies from Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The operation aimed at disrupting a highly organised crime group active in trafficking young women for the purpose of sexual exploitation and money laundering.
On 19 June 2017, police officers from Piteşti Brigade for Combating Organised Crime and prosecutors from D.I.I.C.O.T. – Piteşti Territorial Service searched 71 houses in Romania, which led to the detention of 35 suspects.
Significant amounts of cash in different currencies were seized (EUR 151 910, RON 170 483, CHF 30 100, USD 720, SEK 3 800), which demonstrates the mobility and international reach of this criminal network. In addition, 500 grams of gold, 34 luxury watches (with an estimated value of EUR 210 000), 8 luxury cars (worth of EUR 200 000), 8 properties (estimated at EUR 1.2 mil) and other assets (a grinder, 3 machetes, 1 compressed air gun and 4 carbine cartridges) were also seized, alongside other items that will be further examined as evidence (24 laptops, 92 smartphones, 9 tablets and 2 hard-drives).
Simultaneously, NCA officers, with support from Northumbria Police and Home Office Immigration Enforcement, executed search warrants at addresses in the UK. Three suspects were detained and 10 potential victims were safeguarded as part of the operation. Officers seized thousands of pounds in cash from the various properties, as well as one round of ammunition and pepper spray.
Further police actions were carried out in Belgium and Switzerland in support of the main operation.
Making extensive use of special investigative techniques, the competent authorities were able to detect this well-organised crime group and to put an end to their illicit and very profitable activity, as demonstrated by the value of the assets seized and bank transfers traced down (some EUR 5 mil).
Europol actively supported this investigation by providing operational and analytical support and contributed to the smooth exchange of information among the countries concerned. Several operational meetings were held at Europol and human trafficking specialists equipped with a mobile office were deployed to Romania and the UK, from where they supported the action day by cross-checking intelligence.
Eurojust provided logistical and financial support to the joint investigation team (JIT) agreement that was signed between Belgium, Romania and the UK. In addition, Eurojust received and facilitated the execution of requests for cooperation submitted within this investigation from countries not party to the JIT.