Romanian people and lawyers at the Sector III Court building in Bucharest, October 2013. Archive photo: EPA/ROBERT GHEMENT
Romanian prosecutors on Friday announced the dismantling of a human trafficking syndicate that forced young girls into prostitution in the south of the country, in the third such operation against groups dedicated to exploiting women in only four days.
The action came after the US Government’s 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report warned of Romania’s lack of progress in fighting human trafficking and human exploitation. It noted that the authorities had “investigated, prosecuted and convicted fewer traffickers” than last year, and rang alarm bells about the lack of proactive measures taken to prevent human trafficking or protect victims.
A statement on Friday from the prosecution body set up to combat organised crime said: “In this case, it has been established that, between March and July 2020, the members of the criminal group recruited, through the lover-boy method, several minor female victims who were threatened and obliged to practice prostitution in the Giurgiu county and the Bucharest municipality.”
The so-called “lover-boy method” consists of the trafficker luring or grooming the girl into a pretended relationship in order to gain her confidence and draw her into forced prostitution.
Two suspects have been arrested and presented before a court in Giurgiu, near the border with Bulgaria. A judge will decide on the prosecutors’ petition that the alleged traffickers remain in custody for 30 days.
On Tuesday, prosecutors in the Black Sea port city of Constanta arrested and brought to justice eight people who “in the period 2019 to 2020 recruited and housed several minor victims with the aim of exploiting them through forced prostitution”.
Also on Tuesday, the prosecution body specializing in organised crime arrested four other people as part of a group constituted last year that lured poor teenagers into prostitution, all through the lover-boy method. The teens were forced to perform sexual work under threat in various apartments in the town of Petrila, in Hunedoara County, in western Romania.
In a separate case, prosecutors on Thursday said 15 people arrested last year, including three police officers and another state official, will be tried for crimes ranging from child sex trafficking to child pornography and prostitution.
The suspects were arrested after police discovered a clandestine brothel that had been set up in a food factory in Bacau, in northeast Romania.
According to prosecutors, several minors aged between 14 and 17, who often came from poor rural areas, were initiated into the use of cocaine and were sexually exploited on the premises.
Romania, together with Ireland, is the only EU country put in the so-called Tier 2-Watch List of the US Government’s 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report. The other EU countries were classified as Tier 1 or as simply Tier 2.