The Hague, 25 April 2023
Supported by Eurojust and Europol, judicial and law enforcement authorities in the Czech Republic and Finland have dismantled a criminal network involved in trafficking in human beings for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Thirteen suspects have been arrested in three joint actions and over 90 victims have been brought to safety. Eurojust assisted the authorities in setting up and funding a joint investigation team (JIT) into the case.
Active since at least 2019, the interconnected organised crime groups (OGCs) allegedly recruited women in the Czech Republic and forced them into prostitution in different locations in the Czech Republic and Finland. The OCGs were well organised with a clear division of roles. The suspects organised the transport and accommodation of the victims, advertised their services on dedicated escort websites and communicated with the customers.
The perpetrators kept and laundered part of the victims’ earnings to conceal their criminal origins. The OCGs are believed to have acquired large sums of money through this criminal activity.
During three joint actions that took place between April 2022 and January 2023, a total of thirteen suspects were arrested. Over EUR 200,000 in cash, 3 apartments, 4 luxury vehicles and other valuable items were seized. Over 90 victims have been already identified and brought to safety.
The Finnish court has already convicted three members of an OCG arrested in the first joint action in April 2022. The main suspect was convicted of aggravated pandering and other offences and sentenced to imprisonment of 2 years and 10 months. The second suspect was convicted of aggravated pandering and other offences to conditional imprisonment of 1 year. The proceeds of the crime confiscated in both cases amount to EUR 219,000 and EUR 6700, respectively. The third suspect was convicted of abetting the pandering and sentenced to conditional imprisonment of 3 months.
The case was opened by the Czech authorities in May 2021. A JIT was set up between the Czech and Finnish authorities with the support of Eurojust in August 2021. Three coordination meetings were hosted by the Agency to facilitate judicial cooperation and prepare for the action days.
Europol supported the operation by deploying members of Analysis Project Phoenix with a mobile office to carry out rapid on-the-spot cross-checking and to provide forensic support during the action days.
The following authorities took part in this investigation:
- Czech Republic: Regional Public Prosecutor’s Office in České Budějovice, Regional Public Prosecutor’s Office in Prague, District Public Prosecutor’s Office for Prague 3 and District Public Prosecutor’s Office in Ostrava; Police of the Czech Republic, National Centre Against Organised Crime Unit, Branch České Budějovice
- Finland: Helsinki Police Department; Finnish Prosecution Authority, Prosecution District of Southern Finland