Tricked into a fake business deal, the victims found themselves under the control of the traffickers.
The German Regional Police of Berlin (Landeskriminalamt Berlin) and the Hungarian National Bureau of Investigation THB Unit (Nemzeti Nyomozó Iroda Emberkereskedelem Elleni Osztály), supported by Europol, have dismantled a criminal network involved in human trafficking for sexual exploitation. The investigation resulted in a simultaneous action day in Berlin and Budapest on 21 September 2022.
The investigation uncovered that the criminal network was led by a Hungarian couple (one male and one female). They were arrested in Berlin based on a European Arrest Warrant issued by Hungary. During the action day, officers interviewed one victim of human trafficking in Berlin and two potential victims in Budapest.
The action day led to:
- 2 house searches in Germany
- 3 arrests (2 in Germany and one in Hungary);
- 2 witnesses interviewed;
- Seizures included one vehicle and electronic equipment.
Active since 2017, the criminal network recruited young Hungarian women and exploited them. The suspects recruited the females from vulnerable social and economic backgrounds for prostitution in a certain areas of Berlin. The suspects were offering their victims a ‘business deal’, which they claimed included accommodation, protection and assistance with official documentation upon arrival in exchange for 50 % of the girls’ income. However, the girls were forced to give their entire income to the criminal network. The suspects transported the victims from Hungary to Germany and housed them in flats rented by the criminal network. Once there, the suspects imposed a specific code of conduct, means of communication and working conditions on the victims, and dictated the pricing and location of the prostitution. The victims were sent to specific streets and areas of Berlin, which were controlled by the suspects.
The criminal network imposed a minimum daily income to be earned by the victims. They had to stay on the streets until they earned between EUR 150 and EUR 300. Criminal associates who wanted to manage their own girls in the streets controlled by the main suspect, had to pay him EUR 150 daily per victim exploited in the area. Generally, the suspects took all of the income generated by the victims, who suffered severe mental and physical abuse when they failed to earn the required daily amount, or when they did not follow the code of conduct imposed by the criminal network. The investigation has identified 25 victims so far. One of them suffered severe abuse and was locked in a room where she was forced into prostitution. In an attempt to escape, she jumped out of the window and her injuries led to nine months of hospital treatment.
Europol coordinated the operational activities, facilitated the exchange of information and provided analytical and financial support. Europol deployed one expert to Berlin and one to Budapest to cross-check operational information in real time and support investigators on the ground with technical expertise.
Source – Europol