Austrian police have uncovered a prostitution ring “employing” at least 150 Chinese women. Seven Chinese and Austrian suspects have been arrested and there is strong evidence linking the individuals to a wider Chinese gang believed to have deceived, trafficked and enslaved young women from China.
According to a police statement, the young women were promised jobs as au-pairs or masseuses and were first asked to pay up to €10,000 (73,465 RMB) to cover their visa costs. They were then escorted to Vienna by a gang member. Shortly after their arrival, their passports were taken. Threatened with violence, the young women had little choice but to agree to the gang’s demands.
Detectives have been investigating the Austrian-based Chinese gang since early 2016, reported The Local, a European news network. The infuriatingly simple criminal enterprise moved its victims around different brothels owned by the gang in Vienna. Along with the girls’ passports, the gang also confiscated all of their earnings.
After working in Vienna for a period of time some of the “terrified victims” were transported around the country to work in different brothels located in Styria and Carinthia.
Six suspects have been arrested and are in pretrial custody in Vienna. The police searched 13 properties and found counterfeit IDs and money, a gun and €30,000 in cash. It is reported that another suspect is on the run.
The bust comes a month after Europol reportedly stepped up efforts to combat organized trafficking. An investigation by the inter-European police department found that there is a well-trodden trafficking route from China to Europe, whereby many pimps are targeting Chinese women.
Austria is increasingly becoming an international transit point for trafficking. The country’s legislation does not prohibit prostitution, but looks to standardize the industry and provide a safe environment for “working women.” Criminal groups have taken advantage of such liberal legislation. Gangs are also capitalizing on Austria’s central location in Europe. Austria is by no means the only choice for potential human traffickers, the Netherlands and Germany also face similar problems.
International human trafficking seems to be the illegal activity of choice among gangs looking to make big profits. In October a Chinese “beggar gang” was uncovered by a local newspaper in Malaysia. The gang was mutilating, trafficking and forcing Chinese children to beg on the streets of Kuala Lumpur.
By Seamus Gibson
[Images via The Paper]