With support from Eurojust, authorities in Romania and the United Kingdom have taken action against an organised crime group (OCG) involved in the trafficking of Romanian women for sexual exploitation in the United Kingdom. During two action days in Romania and the United Kingdom, a total of fourteen searches were carried out and nine suspects were charged. The authorities rescued five victims and secured various pieces of evidence. In addition, real estate assets worth over EUR 200 000 were frozen and approximately GBP 6 000 in cash was seized. Eurojust supported the setting up of a joint investigation team (JIT), awarded funding and organised four coordination meetings to facilitate judicial cooperation.
It is believed that the OCG had been active from as early as 2014. From 2016 onwards, the criminals allegedly recruited young Romanian women and transported them to the United Kingdom, where they were sexually exploited. The prostitution service was advertised on dedicated escort websites and took place in rented apartments in various cities. The OCG members transferred the proceeds to Romania to finance their luxurious lifestyles and purchase valuable assets.
The first action day took place on 6 May, with a successful operation on the ground in Romania. Seven searches were conducted and five suspects were charged, one of whom was arrested and three of whom were put under judicial supervision. Furthermore, real estate assets worth over EUR 200 000 were frozen.
In the United Kingdom, the action day took place on 14 June, with a Romanian judicial team dispatched to participate in the activities. The authorities conducted seven searches and uncovered two clandestine brothels. Four suspects were charged, and five victims were identified and saved. Approximately GBP 6 000 in cash was seized.
The judicial activities carried out during both action days resulted in the seizure of various pieces of evidence documenting the OCG’s criminal activities.
Connected criminal investigations are being carried out by Wiltshire Police and the Crown Prosecution Service in the United Kingdom and the Romanian Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism – Territorial Office Buzau. Eurojust has facilitated the judicial cooperation since October 2020, and a JIT between the Romanian and UK authorities was set up in December 2020 with Eurojust’s support and funding. Furthermore, the Agency hosted four coordination meetings to ensure coordination between the national investigations.
The following authorities took part in the operations:
• Romania: Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism – Buzau Territorial Office, Service for Combating Organized Crime Buzau
• United Kingdom: Wiltshire Police, Crown Prosecution Service