The Hague, 14 June 2012
On 12 June 2012, judicial and law enforcement authorities in four countries (France, Bulgaria, Poland and Belgium) successfully conducted a joint operation - supported and coordinated by Eurojust and Europol - against a trafficking in human beings (THB) criminal network operating in several Member States.
The investigation was started in October 2010 in France by the inter-regional judicial police of Lyon, together with the anti-trafficking central police agency (O.C.R.T.E.H), under the supervision of the Lyon organised crime inter-regional court (JIRS).
The operation relates to procurement and THB involving Bulgarian citizens. Young women were recruited in Bulgaria for the purpose of sexual exploitation in several European countries, including Belgium and France. Proceeds were collected by procurers, transferred using Western Union orders and invested in Bulgaria. A Joint Investigation Team co-funded by Eurojust was set up between Bulgaria and France, with the participation of Europol, to tackle this organised crime group more effectively, but, given the mobility of perpetrators, the involvement of Poland and Belgium in the coordinated action became necessary.
To facilitate direct cooperation, French police officers were present during the operations in Bulgaria, Belgium and Poland. Six European Arrest Warrants (EAWs), four of which were issued in the course of action, were transmitted by French authorities and nine persons in total were arrested. Thirteen house searches were carried out, resulting in the seizure of a large body of documentary evidence and mobile telephones.
A coordination centre was set up at Eurojust starting at 6:00, run by the Eurojust French Desk with the assistance of the Case Analysis Unit, which provided significant support in the execution of the EAWs. The operation was supported on the day by Europol’s trafficking in human beings team and the deployment of its mobile office. The intelligence gathered during the operation was analysed and exchanged in real time, the collected data was immediately cross-matched, and previously unknown links to other investigations were identified. This coordinated multi-agency approach brought added value to the operation.
Mr Jamin, Assistant to the Eurojust National Member for France, commented: “This operation demonstrates once more the absolute necessity to combine efforts on all sides – judicial and law enforcement – and in all Member States to achieve success”.
Mrs Lilova, Eurojust National Member for Bulgaria, added: “Simultaneous operations were carried out in three different regions in Bulgaria, which required a high level of commitment and coordination from our national authorities. For the proper handling of EAWs, the support of the coordination centre was really an asset”.
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