A network of human traffickers who lured victims into prostitution using the so-called “lover boy’ method has been broken up by Spanish and Romanian police.
Thirteen people were arrested and 16 buildings raided in two crackdowns by the Policía Nacional and Poliția Română, which took place in Spain in February and Romania in June 2021.
Europol announced the outcome on Thursday, adding that some 25 victims – 24 Romanian citizens and one Bulgarian – had been identified across the two countries.
The gang, Europol said, had been recruiting victims into prostitution by seducing them and promising them a better life abroad.
The victims were then trafficked to Spain and sexually exploited in night clubs. The organised criminals collected their earnings in cash and spirited it out of the country themselves, avoiding air travel.
A total of nine victims were located in Romania and a further 16 in Spain.
Police also seized digital equipment and mobile phones, together with five bank accounts and more than €40,000 in cash.
French and Romanian police disrupted a similar network in October 2020, in which three Romanian women – said to be the suspects’ girlfriends – had been trafficked to France to work as prostitutes, with their handlers buying real estate and luxury cars in Romania from the criminal profits.
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