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Human trafficking gang exploiting South American victims busted in France and Spain

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The French Border Police (Police National/Police aux frontiers) and the Spanish National Police (Policía Nacional), supported by Europol, dismantled a criminal network involved in human trafficking for sexual exploitation. The investigation resulted in a simultaneous action day in France and Spain on 8 March 2022.

The actions led to:

  • 13 house searches (7 in France and 6 in Spain)
  • 13 arrests (suspects from Bolivian, Colombian, Ecuadorian, French, Spanish, Peruvian and Venezuelan origin)
  • 25 victims originating from South America were identified
  • Seizures include two real estate properties with an estimated combined value of EUR 340 000, approximately EUR 53 000  across multiple bank accounts, more than EUR 300 000 in cash, and digital equipment including over 70 mobile phones.


French Border Police initiated the investigation in January 2021, although investigators suspect that the network was already active for some time before that. The members of the criminal network, predominantly of Spanish nationality, exploited mainly Colombian nationals in Spain and in the area around the French city of Nantes. The suspects recruited clients via websites and controlled the accounts advertising the victims. The network transported the illegal profits from France to Spain themselves or by using money mules. The criminals laundered their proceeds through investments in real estate and cash-intensive businesses such as bars and clubs in Spain.

Europol coordinated the operational activities, facilitated the exchange of information and provided analytical support. Europol deployed two experts to France and one expert to Spain to cross-check operational information in real time and support investigators on the ground with technical and asset-recovery expertise.


In 2017 the Council of the EU decided to continue the EU Policy Cycle for the 2018 – 2021 period. It aims to tackle the most significant threats posed by organised and serious international crime to the EU. This is achieved by improving and strengthening cooperation between the relevant services of EU Member States, institutions and agencies, as well as non-EU countries and organisations, including the private sector where relevant. Currently, there are ten EMPACT priorities. From 2022, the mechanism becomes permanent under the name EMPACT 2022+.

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