Europol has brought together 15 experts from eight different countries, including Belgium, to intensify the investigation into the largest Chinese prostitution ring ever dismantled in the European Union.
The collaboration is part of the ‘Lotus’ task force, the European police cooperation agency said on Thursday.
In February, authorities in Belgium, Spain and Switzerland arrested 31 suspects for their alleged involvement in the sexual exploitation of Chinese victims.
Members of the criminal network brought women from China to Europe, and then demanded high ransoms from them, which the victims were allegedly forced to finance through prostitution.
The network distributed advertisements of the women on the Internet, and set up phone centres to connect them with clients in different countries in Europe.
In total, authorities have identified more than 200 victims. Over the past three years, investigators have monitored about 3,000 advertisements linked to the network, suggesting that the actual number of victims could be much higher.
The fact that their actions took place online played an important role in the way the group operated. A large part of the network was dismantled thanks to the action of the Lotus taskforce, but the investigation is not yet complete.
In early March, the 15 experts, from Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain and Switzerland, extracted tens of terabytes of data, from hundreds of confiscated devices.
Thanks to their intensive cooperation, this was done in a matter of days instead of months.
The data collected will be used for operational analysis and further investigation of the human trafficking network.