Worldwide Anti-Trafficking Operation Nets over 1,000 Suspects
Police across 54 countries have arrested more than 1,000 suspects in a joint operation that tackled organized human trafficking and migrant smuggling and revealed an increase in online recruitment through e-commerce platforms, Interpol said.
Operation "FLASH-WEKA" was carried out between May and June 2023, and resulted in 1,062 arrests, the detection of 2,731 irregular migrants, 823 human trafficking victims, and the seizure of 801 pieces of criminal merchandise, including stolen firearms and vehicles. Additionally, 197 associated investigations were triggered.
The operation also revealed an increase in online recruitment through e-commerce platforms, such as Q.net, with networks identified in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, and Mali.
Police in Yaoundé, Cameroon, rescued victims of a Pyramid scheme which used Q.Net and detained the suspected perpetrators for further investigation at Cameroon's Interpol National Central Bureau Command Post.
Q.Net has denied any involvement in illegal activities, including human trafficking. The company said it was cooperating with law enforcement.
In Sierra Leone, information gathered by Interpol's intelligence led to a police raid that saved 15 suspected trafficking victims, all of whom were men from Sri Lanka.
Similarly, authorities in Togo’s capital Lomé, Western Africa, rescued during the raid of a hotel 30 victims of human trafficking who were recruited in Nigeria for sexual exploitation.
Police also uncovered two instances of sports-related human trafficking. Recruiters had lured victims to Gulf countries with false promises of registration with football academies. Instead, the victims were ultimately subjected to trafficking and exploitation.
The operation focused on preventing migrant smuggling across the Mediterranean towards Europe, with operations in the Sahel region, in West and Central Africa.
In one case, eight Moroccan men were detected with a rubber boat and life jackets preparing for an illegal crossing to Spain. In Tunisia, investigations into a damaged boat discovered 80 miles off the coast of Kerkennah revealed that the vessel had capsized between Italy and Libya with 59 passengers on board, including children from a wide range of countries.
Authorities also found several victims from Asian countries, specifically Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
In Central Africa's Angola, officers rescued seven Vietnamese women from their trafficker who had lured them with the promise of employment in hotels and beauty salons but coerced them into working in the sex industry. The recruitment had taken place online.
In Iraq, authorities apprehended nine suspects involved in organ trafficking cases.
In Syria, police rescued an underage girl and arrested two men suspected of trafficking her for sexual exploitation.
According to a statement of the U.S. State Department, an estimated 27.6 million people are currently victims of trafficking worldwide.
This story has been updated with Q.Net's reaction and a clarification that the site was used by a pyramid scheme.