Successful Police cooperation against trafficking

Publicated on: April 12, 2022

Hungarian–Romanian organized crime group specialising in forced begging dismantled by joint investigation team of several member states.

Joint investigation teams (JITs) are considered the highest level of cooperation in criminal matters across the EU, effectively linking the investigative authorities of the country of origin of the victims and the country of exploitation in cases of human trafficking. In October 2020, the anti-trafficking unit of the National Bureau of Investigation set up a JIT with its German and Romanian counterparts to investigate an OCG involved in forced begging.

With the promise of seasonal work in Germany, the perpetrators recruited disadvantaged, mainly homeless people suffering from alcohol and other addictions. On arrival, however, they were told that they would not be given a legal job and would instead have to beg on the streets to repay travel, accommodation and other (invented) costs.
For lack of local knowledge, language skills and money the victims were unable to escape their vulnerable situation and travel home. Their personal documents were taken away, and they were housed in inhumane conditions – in empty properties without running water or heating, or in vans. The suspects only supplied them with minimal food and mostly alcohol; they took the proceeds of the begging every day, after the “work”, and spent on their own livelihood.

The perpetrators transported the victims back and forth daily between their casual accommodation and the begging location, keeping them under constant surveillance. If Police appeared on the site, the beggars were taken to another busy place in the city.

The criminals started their activities in Germany (Ingolstadt, Nuremberg, Berlin) and then moved to Austria (Feldkirch, Linz, Bad Hall and Steyr), which required the involvement of Austrian law enforcement authorities as well. According to current investigation data, at least 11 victims were recruited and forced to beg in the two countries, generating a profit of more than €200,000 over the years.

On 6 April, in the morning, a coordinated police action took place in the territory of the four countries concerned: searches were carried out in 13 locations and 4 persons were arrested on suspicion of trafficking in human beings. During the operation, the authorities seized electronic data storage devices, one kilogram of gold, approximately €90,000 in cash and large quantities of euro coins that the victims had been begging for but have not yet changed for paper money.

The Hungarian, German and Romanian law enforcement and judicial authorities will continue to cooperate within the framework of the JIT to fully dismantle the criminal ring.

Eurojust and Europol also issued press releases on the results of the international investigation.


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