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Sex ring traffickers seized in Riga

  • 2001-08-30
  • Jorgen Johansson
RIGA - An international police effort has led to the arrest of two people suspected of masterminding a human trafficking ring linking Latvia to Western Europe.

"We were cooperating closely with police forces in Denmark and Germany on this case," said Krists Leiskalns, a state police spokesman. "We were informed by those police forces about this sort of activity."

After Latvian prostitutes were arrested in those respective countries, police there decided to get in touch with Latvia to try and locate the source. Now police here believe they have found that source.

The pair, identified as male Aleksandrs B., 37, and female Jelena M., 34, were caught at Riga's central bus station as the former was stowing his baggage and the baggage of trafficked women onto a bus headed for Germany. Local police authorities reported that the man always traveled with the women to their final destinations.

"This person has been doing this for quite some time," Leiskalns said. "It was not the first time."

The German federal police sees human trafficking as a top priority to investigate, since it falls under the organized crime category. Brigitte Heib, a spokeswoman for the German federal police, confirmed to The Baltic Times that human trafficking is a problem for Germany.

"In 1999, 801 women were arrested in Germany. Most of them were from Russia and the Ukraine, but there were also a few from Lithuania and Latvia," she said.

Heib added that it is not easy to handle these women since they are breaking German migration laws and are at the same time victims of organized crime.

"The women are asked to stay and testify against the people who brought them here, but it's difficult because they're afraid," Heib said. "If they don't want to be witnesses in court they are sent out of the country."

In Latvia, Aleksandrs B. and Jelena M.'s operations were run fairly openly with meetings arranged with the women in public cafés.

"They found the girls through advertisements in newspapers. Then they met in cafés where the women were informed about what they could expect," Leiskalns said.

"They never told tales of wonderful lives abroad. They simply said that they would work as prostitutes, how much money they would earn and how much of that they would keep. Sixty percent would go to the pimps and the organizers, 40 percent would be kept by the women."