Victims from Romania forced to endure prostitution, financial exploitation and violence in the United Kingdom
Law enforcement from Romania and the United Kingdom have arrested seven members of an organised crime group responsible for human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation. On an action day carried out in August 2023, police apprehended the Romanian nationals in multiple simultaneous raids carried out in London, UK, and Iași, Romania. The investigation, which was supported by Europol and Eurojust, revealed that the suspects had been bringing vulnerable women from Romania to the United Kingdom. In total, eight victims were safeguarded as a result of the coordinated operation, which was in part funded by EMPACT. Law enforcement seized a range of weapons, massive amounts of cash, jewellery and a luxury vehicle.
Typically, the victims were recruited in Romania before being brought to the United Kingdom for sexual exploitation. The organised crime group operated an escort service agency in London, through which it would advertise the sexual services provided by their victims. When the escort service received a booking, members of the criminal group would bring the Romanian women to the client and collect at least half of the payment afterwards. As well as having to surrender most of their earnings, victims would also have to pay for transport, lodging and advertising, which rendered them financially dependent on the traffickers. To keep the exploited women under their control, members of the criminal group also resorted to threats and violence. In addition to being suspected of forcing women into prostitution, the traffickers are also under investigation for money laundering.
Europol supported the investigation from the very beginning by hosting operational meetings and a virtual command post at its headquarters in The Hague. During the action day, Europol provided analytical as well as operational support to the involved police forces and deployed staff with a mobile office to Romania. Europol also participated in the joint investigation team set up by Eurojust, in which representatives of judicial and law enforcement agencies from both countries worked together on the case. Two Romanian police officers took part in the action day in London, while four Metropolitan Police officers attended the operation in Romania. This staff exchange between Romania and the United Kingdom was funded by an EMPACT high-value grant.
Romania: Romanian Police – Directorate for Combating Organised Criminality - Iași Regional Unit – Trafficking in Human Beings Unit; Directorate for Investigating Organised Crime and Terrorism; Prosecutor's Office attached to the High Court of Cassation and Justice
United Kingdom: Metropolitan Police Modern Slavery Unit; Crown Prosecution Service, Complex Case Unit, London South