A joint investigation team (JIT) of the Italian and Romanian authorities, with the support of Eurojust, has taken new action against a criminal network which exploited female victims for street prostitution in northern Italy. During an action day, eight suspects were arrested in both countries. Another eight members of the same organised crime group (OCG) had already been arrested in 2019 for the same offence. Safety has been provided for a group of 20 female victims, who were forced to borrow money from the OCG at extortionate interest rates of 30 %.
Furthermore, the German authorities have been asked for assistance to check and possibly seize bank accounts. Eurojust also assisted in the execution of freezing orders to seize property and plots of land in Romania worth more than EUR 200 000. More than EUR 300 000 worth of properties and cash of the then-arrested OCG members had already been frozen in 2019.
For many years, the OCG exploited young vulnerable Romanian female victims, who were forced into street prostitution in the province of Bergamo. To pay for their living, they became double victims as the OCG members compelled them to borrow huge sums of money at usury charges. The victims had to give up properties and cars as collateral for these loans.
The members of the OCG are suspected of human trafficking, committing transnational usury crimes, money laundering and the fictitious registration of various assets. The operations on the ground were coordinated by the District Anti-Mafia Directorate of Brescia, the Investigative Unit of the Carabinieri of Bergamo, the Directorate for Investigation of Organised Crime and Terrorism, the Prosecution Offices of the Courts of Appeal of Iasi and Suceava, the Brigade for Combating of Organised Crime (BCCO), and the Iasi Police in Romania.
In Germany, support was provided by the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Frankfurt am Main. Eurojust coordinated the judicial cooperation between authorities and the action day in the three countries. The Agency also funded the JIT into the case and assisted in the execution of freezing orders and European Arrest Warrants for the suspects taken into custody in Romania. Europol provided additional support to the JIT.