The Federal Judicial Police (FJP) searched 26 addresses in Antwerp, Charleroi, Louvain, Neufchâteau and Brussels on Tuesday as part of an investigation into human trafficking linked to prostitution, the federal prosecutor’s office said.
Twenty-five suspects, including three Belgians, were arrested for questioning and more than 20 alleged victims, all of Chinese origin, were found.
“For several years, Chinese sex workers have been increasingly present in Belgium, particularly in Brussels,” the Federal Prosecutor’s Office said. “The East Flanders FJP, on the orders of the Federal Prosecutor’s Office and under the direction of an investigating judge in Ghent, launched an investigation into a criminal organisation suspected of transferring women from China to Europe and forcing them into prostitution. After an intensive investigation, the organisation was uncovered."
According to the Federal Prosecutor’s Office, the victims were exploited in ‘private prostitution’, via online rental platforms, hotels, holiday homes, etc, but during Covid, the activities also shifted to street prostitution, especially in Alhambra District in Brussels.
Several buildings there were seized under the investigation.
The victims were often moved from one place to another in Europe.
“In this way, the criminal organisation acquired large sums of money, which were transferred abroad through legal and illegal channels,” the Federal Prosecutor's Office said.
“Simultaneously with the Belgian intervention, searches and arrests were also carried out in Alicante and Barcelona, Spain, at the request of the Belgian investigators,” it added.