Global Police Crack Down on Online Sexual Exploitation

Police from Europe and South America have teamed up to take action against an organized crime group involved in human trafficking for sexual exploitation.

Between 20-23 June, they swooped on 14 locations, arrested 10 and interviewed eight victims. Among items seized in the searches were vehicles, electronic equipment, hard drives, over 40 mobile phones, SIM cards, documents, payment cards and about €20,000 in cash.

Europol supported the French Border Police, the Spanish National Police, the Portuguese Judicial Police and the Brazilian Federal Police during the operation, which saw coordinated raids in France, Spain and Portugal.

French police began their investigation back in March 2021, although the group was likely operating long before that. The gang of mainly Brazilian criminals is said to have coerced Brazilians living in France, Spain and Portugal.

“The criminal network is suspected to have exploited more than 100 victims, advertising them on specialized websites and managing their online accounts. They rented apartments and hotel rooms by the week, which were used for the sexual exploitation activities,” Europol explained.

“Investigators identified close to 60 such locations in France. It is estimated that the criminal network earned about €120,000 per month.”

The operation appears to have been well-organized, with suspects using a “complex financial scheme” to direct their profits from France via Belgian, Spanish and Portuguese banks to Brazil. Here it could be laundered more easily, according to Europol.

Financial institutions are required by global regulations to track unusual movements of money like this, which may indicate laundering and criminal activity such as human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

However, an estimated 50% of this activity goes undetected, with the vast majority (76%) of banking professionals polled by BAE Systems Digital Intelligence believing that compliance has become a tick-box exercise.

In the meantime, police continue to score small wins. Last week European law enforcers said they opened 15 new investigations into the trafficking of Ukrainian refugees.

What’s Hot on Infosecurity Magazine?