Wed. May 18th, 2022

The Hague, 23 March 2022

Authorities in France and Romania have taken decisive action against a criminal network that exploited female victims for sexual purposes in France and several other European Union Member States using the so-called ‘lover-boy method’.

During a joint action day, five European Arrests Warrants (EAWs) were executed in Romania and two arrests took place in France. Eurojust provided support to set up and fund a joint investigation team (JIT) into the case and facilitated judicial cross-border cooperation.

The suspects allegedly belonged to an organised criminal group (OCG) that exploited 19 Romanian women for sexual purposes throughout the European Union, mainly in the regions of Rhône Alpes and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur in France. The victims moved from town to town, most often in pairs, and they were prostituted in private residences. Customers were directed to them through advertisements on specialised sites.

The OGC members used the ‘lover-boy method’ to recruit their victims. They pretended to be interested in relationships with women in vulnerable positions due to their age and/or personal or financial situation but, in reality, drove them into prostitution.

Most of the money obtained from this criminal activity was sent to Romania by express transfer services, while the rest of the funds were collected directly by the group members and transported to Romania. A total of USD 1 404 858 (money sent from 250 locations in 25 countries) was sent to or by group members via bank transfer services. Most of the profits were invested in real estate and expensive assets through frontmen outside the criminal network.

Eurojust facilitated judicial cooperation by setting up and funding a JIT. Two coordination meetings were organised to coordinate the national investigations and prepare for the action day as well as to ensure the additional judicial cooperation endeavours. Europol provided additional analytical support to the investigation and set up a dedicated Operational Task Force.

To support the action day on 22 March, Eurojust set up a coordination centre to enable rapid cooperation between the judicial authorities involved, including the execution of five EAWs in Romania.

As a result of the six searches carried out in Romania, 13 mobile phones, a laptop, 3 memory cards, a USB stick, EUR 2 200, TRY 3 300, a ring worth approximately RON 8 000, 5 bank cards, 2 SIM cards and documents were found and seized for further investigation and possible precautionary measures. At the same time, steps were taken to seize six luxury cars.

Eight searches were also carried out in France, during which sixteen mobile phones and EUR 20 415 were seized for the purposes of the investigation.

The following authorities took part in the investigation:

  • Romania: Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism, Ploiesti Brigade for Countering Organized Crime, Mobile Division of the Romanian Gendarmerie
  • France: Investigative judge from JIRS (interregional specialised jurisdiction) Marseille and OCRTEH (Central Office against Human Trafficking)

Source: Eurojust website