Europol Busts Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation Ring

Czech, Finnish, and Hungarian authorities have dismantled a criminal network suspected of recruiting victims, mostly Czechs, for sexual exploitation in Finland and other Scandinavian countries.

Interpol Arrests CzechiaPolice in action against human traffickers and sexual exploiters. (Photo: Europol, Youtube/screenshot, License)During the operation, coordinated by the EU Police – Europol and the EU judicial cooperation agency – Eurojust, officers arrested 13 people and identified more than 90 victims, according to a statement by Europol.

Law enforcement officials have also seized 200,000 euros (US$219,513) in cash, four luxury vehicles, three apartments, 40 cellphones, four laptops, and four tablets, a shotgun, and ammunition. Eight bank accounts were frozen.

“The investigation into the results of this operation is still ongoing, as the total number of victims of Czech, Hungarian, and Romanian nationality counted is more than 400,” read the statement.

Czech members of the criminal network, which is believed to have generated at least 3.3 million euros (US$3.62 million), functioned as coordinators and advertised their services to victims on websites, according to Europol.

“Perpetrators could book the victims in advance, while rotation systems – also known as ‘sex tours’ or ‘carousels’ – allowed for the exploited to be offered in various locations,” the statement said.

Europol stressed that the victims were subjected to deplorable treatment by the so-called “call operators” inside the organized criminal network, who kept them under control.

It stated that the operators’ duty was to market the victims on adult service websites and manage their online profiles. The victims, usually Czech women, would then establish the topics for the victims’ meetings and define the types of sexual services offered.

Furthermore, the main perpetrators employed specific victims known as ‘Alphas’ to exert influence over the others, according to Europol.

The women were frequently forced to work under duress, deprived of their money, and constantly monitored by the criminals. Even in cases when some of them were permitted to go back home, the criminal network members would take most of the victim’s savings and extort even more money through threats and violence, Europol said.

However, some women managed to avoid exploitation and abuse by utilizing their digital skills and exploring new roles as ‘Alphas,’ thereby becoming active members of the criminal network, the statement read.

The investigation into the well-organized criminal network, capable of acting remotely from different locations, mostly in the Czech Republic and Finland, started in August 2021.