Police from South America and Europe have teamed up to take action against an organised crime group involved in human trafficking for sexual exploitation.
Between the 20th and 23rd June, the police swooped on 14 locations, arrested 10 and interviewed eight victims. Among the items seized in the searches were vehicles, hard drives, electronic equipment, over 40 mobile phones, SIM cards, payment cards, and documents.
Europol supported the French Border Police, the Portuguese Judicial Police, the Spanish National Police, and the Brazilian Federal Police during the operation, which saw coordinated raids in France, Spain and Portugal.
Europol said, “the criminal network is suspected to have exploited more than 100 victims, advertising them on specialized websites and managing their online accounts. They rented apartments and hotel rooms by the week, which were used for the sexual exploitation activities.”
“Investigators identified close to 60 such locations in France. It is estimated that the criminal network earned about €120,000 per month.”
The operation appears to have been well-organised internationally, with suspects using a “complex financial scheme” to direct their profits from France via Spanish, Belgian and Portuguese banks to Brazil. Here the money could be laundered more easily, according to reports.
Financial institutions are required by global regulations to track the unusual movement of money like this, which may indicate larger scale criminal activity such as human trafficking and sexual exploitation.
Apparently, an estimated 50% of this activity goes undetected, with 76% of banking professionals polled by BAE Systems Digital Intelligence believing that compliance has become a tick-box exercise.