Authorities in Brussels lacked sufficient evidence to stop a gang accused of forcing minors into prostitution earlier than they did, the public prosecutor’s office said.
Several members of a Brussels-based gang were arrested in January after police found and rescued a French minor who they believed was being forced into prostitution.
The public prosecutor on Wednesday shot down allegations that they could have arrested the gang and rescued their victims sooner, saying there did not have enough evidence to act.
“It is true that we opened an investigation in August 2019,” into the alleged forced prostitution of one more young girls, a representative of the public prosecutor’s office told Bruzz. “But that investigation provided too little evidence to intervene.”
Following the arrest, a series of media reports suggested that authorities failed to act on tips and information that could have led them to stop the members of the gang sooner.
The reports found that, as early as July 2019, the public prosecutor’s office was informed by the local Midi police zone that two underage girls, one Belgian and one French, were allegedly being held captive and forced into prostitution.
But an intervention did not take place until October of that year, when federal police units raided a house in Uccle where they found the French minor.
The public prosecutor’s office said that the arrests coincided reports in October regarding other victims suspected of being forced into prostitution, which made for a stronger case from January, leading investigators to merge both files and identify the gang members.
With the criminal file ongoing, the public prosecutor said no further information could be provided, but said that the fight against human trafficking and sex offences remained “an absolute priority.”
The Brussels Times