The French Border Police (Police National/Police aux frontières), the Spanish National Police (Policía Nacional), the Portuguese Judicial Police (Polícia Judiciária) and the Brazilian Federal Police (Polícia Federal), supported by Europol and Eurojust, dismantled a criminal network involved in human trafficking for sexual exploitation. The investigation resulted in simultaneous law enforcement actions in France, Portugal and Spain.
The actions of 20-23 June led to:
- 14 location searches (7 in France, 4 in Portugal and 3 in Spain)
- 10 arrests (9 Brazilian and 1 Spanish nationals)
- 8 victims interviewed in France (7 Brazilian and 1 Colombian)
- Seizures include vehicles, electronic equipment, hard drives, more than 40 mobile phones, sim cards, documents, payment cards and about EUR 20 000 in cash.
The French Border Police initiated the investigation in March 2021, although investigators suspect that the network was already active for some time before this. The members of the criminal network, predominantly of Brazilian nationality, mainly exploited Brazilian nationals residing illegally in France, Spain and Portugal. The criminal network is suspected to have exploited more than 100 victims, advertising them on specialised websites and managing their online accounts. The investigators identified that the 13 main suspects were located in Brazil, Portugal and Spain. Two suspects based in France formed a branch, while exploiting the same victims controlled by the main criminal group. 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 EUR 120 000 per month. The suspects used a complex financial scheme to channel the illegal profits from France via Belgian, Spanish and Portuguese banks to Brazil, where the criminal assets could be laundered more easily.
Europol facilitated the exchange of information and provided analytical support. Europol deployed three experts (one in Portugal and two in Spain) to cross-check operational information in real time and support investigators on the ground.
Headquartered in The Hague, the Netherlands, Europol supports the 27 EU Member States in their fight against terrorism, cybercrime, and other serious and organised crime forms. Europol also works with many non-EU partner states and international organisations. From its various threat assessments to its intelligence-gathering and operational activities, Europol has the tools and resources it needs to do its part in making Europe safer.