Gang that forced minors into prostitution ‘could have been caught earlier’

Gang that forced minors into prostitution ‘could have been caught earlier’
Several gang members were arrested on suspicion of human trafficking and prostitution of minors. Credit: Facebook

The file on the Brussels gang that allegedly forced underage girls into prostitution was delayed too long, according to an investigation.

At the end of July 2019, the public prosecutor’s office was informed by the Brussels local police zone South that two underage girls, one Belgian and one French, were allegedly being held captive and forced into prostitution.

The public prosecutor’s office did not follow up on that report at first, according to VRT NWS, despite a directive of the College of Public Prosecutors having a directive that unequivocally states that in reports of sexual violence, absolute priority must be given to the victims, especially if they are minors.

Two months later, the human trafficking section of the federal police received the same information through its informant work. The federal police then contacted the local police zone South, which said that they had been aware of the crime for two months, but do not have enough staff to intervene immediately, reports Het Nieuwsblad.

On 2 October 2019, the federal police raided the house and was able to free a 16-year-old girl who had been “bought” by the gang, presumably from her boyfriend, who had sold her for €2,000.

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As there were difficulties in contacting the responsible public prosecutor to obtain the necessary authorisation, it took until the end of December for the local police zone Brussels-North to again draw up both an information report and an official report.

On 4 January, the police raided the house and rescued the 16-year-old. Her statements allowed the police to arrest nine of the 11 suspects, during several searches.

However, the information that the federal police raid in October was based on, was the same information the police had had since July. If they had acted then, the gang could have been caught months earlier. “The conclusion remains that the underage girls, victims of sexual violence, were left behind for two months,” VRT’s investigation concluded.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times

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