Chinese Human Trafficking, Prostitution Ring Busted in Europe

Law enforcement from multiple European nations busted what Europol on Wednesday called the “biggest Chinese prostitution ring” on the continent that held hundreds of Chinese women in financial bondage across the continent.

Europol China ProstitutionEuropol said that the "biggest Chinese prostitution ring" was busted in Europe. (Photo: Europol, License)During the operation, police searched 34 houses in Belgium and Spain, and arrested 28 suspects – 27 in Belgium and one in Spain – including “five Chinese nationals considered as high-value targets by Europol due to their involvement in multiple high-profile cases in Europe,” the EU law enforcement agency said in a statement.

The suspects are believed to be members of the prostitution ring that advertised sex using online websites, where clients could schedule appointments with the women. At the same time, they could book online rentals for sex trafficking, such as hotels or vacation houses, according to Europol.

The gang would rotate their victims between EU countries.

The EU police agency also said that national authorities have monitored more than 3,000 online advertisements linked to the criminal ring over the course of the three-year-long investigation.

“The investigators were able to identify over 200 victims so far, with the actual number believed to be much higher,” read the statement.

The investigation also found that the gang used popular Chinese messaging apps to lure its victims – hundreds of Chinese women whom they persuaded to come to Europe with the promise of a decent job.

They would then sneak them into Europe using counterfeit EU ID cards and residency permits that were either forged or obtained with the use of false supporting documents.

The vicious circle would close once the captives would arrive in Europe.

“Once in Europe, the victims were held in bondage and forced to work as prostitutes to pay off debts,” Europol stated.

The criminal network acquired significant sums of money from the human trafficking and prostitution ring. The money would then be transferred abroad through both legal and illegal routes.

During the latest search only, police seized 1.5 million euro (US$1.61 million) in cash, plus four tonnes of 1 and 2 euro coins, according to EU Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation, Eurojust.

Belgian officials initiated the investigation in 2020 through Eurojust, enlisting law enforcement from throughout Europe because the gang’s cells were spread across the EU.

Europol, which co-ordinated the investigation with Eurojust, then created an Operational Taskforce comprising Belgium, Spain, Poland, and Switzerland, which was subsequently joined by Germany.

First results in the operation against the criminal gang were scored in May 2022, when seven alleged members of the network were arrested in Switzerland.