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Assisting Italian and Bulgarian Authorities: Eurojust Aids in Arresting 22 Suspects Involved in Forcing Female Victims into Prostitution

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Diplomat Magazine
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DIPLOMAT MAGAZINE “For diplomats, by diplomats” Reaching out the world from the European Union First diplomatic publication based in The Netherlands. Founded by members of the diplomatic corps on June 19th, 2013. "Diplomat Magazine is inspiring diplomats, civil servants and academics to contribute to a free flow of ideas through an extremely rich diplomatic life, full of exclusive events and cultural exchanges, as well as by exposing profound ideas and political debates in our printed and online editions." Dr. Mayelinne De Lara, Publisher

The Hague, 15 March 2024

With Eurojust support, authorities in Italy and Bulgaria have arrested 22 alleged members of an organised crime group (OCG), which forced tens of female victims into prostitution. During a coordinated action day earlier this week, most of the often relatively young victims were brought to safety. The mainly Bulgarian OCG was known for its heavy use of violence.

Specific members of the OCG used the so-called ‘lover boy’ method, pretending to engage personally with women from a poor background in Bulgaria and other countries in Eastern Europe and promising them good job opportunities in Italy. In reality, their passports were taken away and the victims were forced into prostitution in Italy in dire conditions.

The OCG had a clear division of roles, with certain members being responsible for luring the victims to Italy and others taking care of transport and controlling them, occasionally under extreme duress.

The Italian authorities started investigating the OCG in 2021, and a year later Eurojust was contacted to coordinate the cooperation with their counterparts in Bulgaria, via the National Desks of both countries at the Agency.

Eurojust provided support with the execution of European Investigations Orders and requests for Mutual Legal Assistance, as well as the setting up of a coordination meeting. During the joint action day, assistance was also provided to the three competent Bulgarian Prosecution Offices in order to rapidly execute European Arrest Warrants for seven of the suspects, who were residing in Bulgaria.

The tracing and arrest activities in Bulgaria were carried out via the European Network of Fugitive Active Search Teams, specifically by the Bulgarian team, upon activation by their counterparts in Italy, which provided constant information. 

The operations on the ground were carried out at the request of and by:

  • Italy: Public Prosecutor’s Office of Lecce; Italian State Police HQ of Lecce; Fugitive Active Search Team (FAST) Italy, at the Service for International Police Cooperation (SCIP) of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
  • Bulgaria: FAST Bulgaria, at the General Directorate of the National Police – Wanted and Missing Persons Unit.
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