BERLIN – German authorities say they have busted a human trafficking ring that involved at least 32 Thai women and transsexuals being sent to Germany.
German authorities say they have raided 62 properties and arrested seven people in an investigation of the ring which allegedly brought Thais over to work as prostitutes.
Prosecutors in Frankfurt said raids were conducted across the country Wednesday.
They said the chief suspects are a 59-year-old Thai national and her 62-year-old German partner, who are suspected of setting up the network. Police had yet to name them last night.
Officials say the couple ran three brothels in the western town of Siegen where the Thais, who entered Germany on fraudulently obtained tourist visas, were initially put to work before being sent to other towns.
Most of their wages were reportedly retained by the suspects, supposedly to cover the cost of bringing them to Germany as well as for room and board at several brothels in Siegen, and of eventually passing them on to brothels elsewhere.
According to another report, those brought to Germany “had to hand over 100% of their wages to the operators of the respective ‘massage parlours’ to pay off their smuggling fee” of between 16,000 and 36,000 euros (625,000-1.4 million baht).
“The investigation has so far identified a total of 32 women and transsexuals who were smuggled into Germany by the suspects and who allegedly worked in the brothels as prostitutes,” the prosecutor’s office said.
Federal police spokesman Ralf Stroeher told n-tv investigators in April last year that officer had started looking into the group, “which, according to our investigation so far, trafficked women and transsexuals from Thailand to Germany in over 100 cases”.
Police said on Twitter the raids, which involved more than 1,500 officers, prosecutors and tax officials, represented the biggest mass search in the history of the federal force.
The prostitutes who were found at the brothels were detained, Mr Stroeher said.
Germany, which legalised prostitution in 2002, has sought to regulate brothels more strictly in recent years.
In all, 56 people are under investigation — 41 women and 15 men, aged between 26 and 66.
They are suspected of offences including trafficking foreigners, forced prostitution, pimping, withholding and embezzling wages, and tax evasion.
The main suspects failed to register their workers for social benefits between 2012 and 2017, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors in the western city of Frankfurt, who have been working with police on the case since February 2017, estimate the ring drew more than US$1.24 million in income.
Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Busadee Santipitaks said: “We have checked with our Consulate-General in Frankfurt and was told that they will be getting a report from the German authorities.
“We are looking for those Thais who may have been trafficked into forced prostitution.” agencies
By Geir Moulson
The Associated Press