13 victims of human trafficking safeguarded in Spain

Europol has supported the Spanish National Police (Policía Nacional) and the Polish Border Guard (Straż Graniczna) in an operation targeting a criminal organisation trafficking human beings for the purposes of sexual and labour exploitation in Spain. The investigation has resulted in 17 arrests and the safeguarding of 13 victims.

The suspects were arrested in Madrid, Palma, Barcelona and Poland during an action day on 14 November 2023. Seven house searches were also carried out, with six in Palma and one in Barcelona, leading to the seizure of electronic devices, documentation, and EUR 15 000 in cash.

The criminal network also profited from the sale of sexual invigorates, so that male customers would spend more time using their illicit services. The network channelled these profits through a catering company owned by the leader of the organisation.

Lured through a messaging app

The victims were lured into being trafficked by compatriots via a messaging app. The criminals charged victims EUR 15 000 for travel to Europe, which would be paid by the trafficker who received them in Poland. On occasions, this same individual would further extort the victims by forcing them to pay an extra EUR 400 per month.

From Poland, the victims would be transferred to Mallorca and promised a good job there. However, they were actually forced into prostitution in order to pay off the criminal network.

According to Spanish law enforcement, the victims lived under a regime of slavery where they had to be available 24 hours, 7 days a week, and were under permanent surveillance by the criminal organisation. They could keep only half of the benefits acquired from their sexual services and could not reject any clients.

Europol’s role in the investigation

Europol supported the operational activities, facilitated the exchange of information and provided analytical support. On the action day, Europol deployed one expert to Palma to cross-check operational information in real time, support investigators on the ground, and perform forensic extractions of the mobile phones used by the suspects.

The investigation benefited from funding from the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats (EMPACT).