Police in Greece, supported by Europol, dismantled a criminal network involved in human trafficking, mainly of women from Venezuela, for sexual exploitation.
Europol, the EU Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation, says that the operation involved Spain and the USA (Homeland Security Investigations) and managed to tear down the criminal group, which had been active since 2014.
Officers arrested ten suspects. Six are accused of trafficking in human beings, five of which are Greek nationals while one is a Venezuelan national.
These six suspects allegedly belonged to an organized criminal group involved in the sexual and economic exploitation of female victims. The remaining four arrested suspects worked at the onsite locations where the victims were exploited. The kingpin of the criminal group is accused of trafficking in human beings and money laundering.
⚠Από την Υποδ/νση Αντιμετώπισης Οργανωμένου Εγκλήμ. και Εμπορίας Ανθρώπων εξαρθρώθηκε εγκληματική οργάνωση εμπορίας και γενετήσιας εκμετάλλευσης γυναικών από τη Λατινική Αμερική 🔗Συνελήφθησαν 6 μέλη της οργάνωσης, μεταξύ των οποίων και το αρχηγικό
— Ελληνική Αστυνομία (@hellenicpolice) December 5, 2023
10 human trafficking victims in Greece saved
Three other members of the criminal organization (two Greek nationals and one Albanian national) are on the run and wanted by the police, as they are also accused of trafficking in human beings. They are believed to still be in Greece.
During the operational actions, Greek authorities safeguarded ten victims of sexual exploitation in Athens, Europol says. Seven of the victims were Venezuelan nationals.
Members of the criminal network recruited the victims in their home countries and transferred them to Greece. According to the Greek police (ELAS), the women were approached through deceptive online applications, related to finding a legal job with high monetary earnings and especially good living conditions.
They were asked to send photos to be “approved” in appearance by the kingpin of the criminal group as well as a photo from their travel documents. They were then persuaded to travel to Greece.
There, the criminal network placed the victims in apartments and exploited them at other locations in the center of Athens. Through the women, the criminal group made tens of thousands of euros. Profits were laundered via real estate acquisitions and investments.
Europol supported the operational activities, facilitated the exchange of information, and provided analytical support. On the day of action, Europol deployed one expert to Athens to cross-check operational information in real-time and support investigators on the ground.
The UN says that women and girls represent 65 percent of all trafficking victims globally. More than 90 percent of detected female victims are trafficked for sexual exploitation.
It adds that within months of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, global searches for Ukrainian women escort services had increased by 300 percent. This demand incentivizes traffickers to recruit and exploit victims, increasingly using online platforms and tools.