RIGA - Police this week detained a group of eight persons suspected of human trafficking and labor exploitation at several addiction prevention centers, LETA was told at the State Police.
According to information obtained during the investigation, an association had been operating three branches in various locations in Latvia offering addiction prevention programs to alcoholics, but instead of providing treatment, under the guise of religious ideas, the victims were "involved in hard and prolonged forced labor in farming and forestry, with restricted possibilities to leave the centers".
The workers were not paid anything, while members of the organized groups divided most of the proceeds from their labor among themselves, police said.
According to information at LETA's disposal, the group that has attracted police attention is connected with the nongovernmental group Neatkariba Balt, which has established support centers for addicts at Lazdukalns in Balvi Region, Rindzele in Tukums Region and Laubele in Ogre Region.
On Monday, the people who had been living at the Laubere center were led away by police. Local residents said that the people who had been living at the center were taken to work each day by bus. The inhabitants of the center had been living a very secluded life - they had no contact with local residents and did not go to local shops.
All residents have also been led away from the center in Rindzele, which has been closed this week.
Representatives of Neatkariba Balt. could not be reached for comment.
According to information on the NGO's website, the organization opened its first support center for addicts on September 3, 2007.
Information available at Firmas.lv lists Vjaceslavs Vahrusevs as the only board member of Neatkariba Balt.
Interior Minister Marija Golubeva (For Development/For) and State Police Deputy Chief Andrejs Grisins will provide more detailed information about the case at a news conference, scheduled for 13:00 Thursday.