The Hague, 7 April 2022
Judicial and law enforcement authorities in Romania, Hungary and Germany have dismantled a criminal network that recruited vulnerable victims, transported them abroad and forced them into street begging. During a joint action day supported by Eurojust and Europol, four suspects were arrested, and thirteen searches were carried out across Romania, Germany, Hungary and Austria.
It is suspected that the organised crime group (OCG) specialised in trafficking human beings began recruiting people with physical and mental disabilities or in vulnerable positions in Romania and Hungary in 2017. The victims were misled by false promises about job opportunities in other European Union countries before instead being transported to Germany and Austria where they were forced into begging on the streets.
The victims were entirely dependent on the OCG members. They had their ID documents and money removed on arrival and did not speak any foreign languages. They were accommodated in empty houses without sanitary facilities or running water, and they were supplied only with large amounts of alcohol and little food.
The OGC members led luxurious lifestyles and used the proceeds of the human trafficking activities to acquire valuable assets. Some victims were forced to work as domestic help with no remuneration at the residences of the OCG members.
Eurojust began actively supporting the national investigations in 2019 and assisted the authorities in Romania, Germany and Hungary with setting up and funding a joint investigation team (JIT) into the case. Two coordination meetings were organised and hosted by the Agency to facilitate judicial cooperation and prepare for the joint action day.
Furthermore, Eurojust facilitated the transmission and execution of various judicial cooperation instruments.
Europol provided analytical support, assisted with the exchange of information and deployed a virtual command post to enable the real-time exchange of information during the action day.
During a joint action day on 6 April, four suspects were arrested and thirteen searches were carried out. In Romania, one suspect was arrested, four search warrants were executed and various means of evidence were seized. Three immovable assets, approximately EUR 90 000 in cash, approximately RON 9 000 (equivalent to EUR 1 800) and almost 1 kg of gold jewellery were frozen.
In Hungary, one suspect was arrested and nine mobile phones, three SIM cards and one SD card were seized during a single house search. In Germany, one suspect was arrested, four searches were carried out and several mobile phones, coins and bank statements were seized. In Austria, one suspect was arrested, four search warrants were executed and four mobile phones, EUR 570 in coins and transfer slips were seized.
The operation was carried out on the ground by:
- Romania: Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism – Covasna; Territorial Office, Brasov Police Brigade for Countering Organized Crime and Covasna Police Service for Combatting Organized Crime
- Hungary: Hungarian National Bureau of Investigation THB Unit.
- Germany: PPO Ingolstadt; Criminal Investigation Department Ingolstadt supported by the Criminal Investigation Department Calw/Pforzheim.