Multiple arrests in major investigation into exploitation of Thai women

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Northern Netherlands – In March, the police again arrested five suspects in several places in the Netherlands in a long-running investigation into the exploitation of Thai women. They are suspected of participating in a criminal organization that focuses on human trafficking and money laundering.

The research started in 2022 after a check in a home in Leeuwarden. That investigation subsequently revealed that a criminal network is active in the Netherlands, which is involved in the sexual exploitation of Thai women, among other things.

21 suspects arrested

Meanwhile, 21 suspects have been arrested at several locations in the Netherlands, as a result of which a large part of the network has been rolled up. It concerns men and women from different places in the Netherlands, including three men (35, 40 and 71 years old) from Assen, two men (36 and 42 years old) from Leeuwarden and a 69-year-old man from the municipality of Súdwest-Fryslân.

They fulfilled different roles within the network. This concerns, for example, persons who played an important role in the management of the network, the transport and accommodation of the victims, but also the collection and delivery of the cash earned.

Large-scale investigation into exploitation

The investigation by the police and the OM revolves around the exploitation of Thai victims who are recruited in Thailand under false pretenses. The victims incurred a debt that had to be repaid. Once in the Netherlands, the victims received many customers a day, had to be available for long hours and had no access to their earnings. The Human Trafficking Team of the Northern Netherlands police has now identified several victims and removed them from the situation. Several declarations have also been included.

Rolling up the network and arresting suspects is a good result after months of research, says Sietse van der Werf, inspector with the Migration Crime and Human Trafficking Police Team of the Northern Netherlands. “But the most important thing is that we get the victims out of the situation. Or even better, prevent them from becoming victims of exploitation and human trafficking. Victims are often vulnerable and live in a world of fear, where physical and emotional violence are not shunned. It is difficult to report when you are in such a situation, especially if you come from abroad.”

The investigation has not yet been completed. Several suspects are still in custody and additional arrests are not ruled out.

Citizens’ help in recognizing signals

The research shows that victims of illegal prostitution are constantly being moved to homes throughout the Netherlands, often in residential areas. Homeowners and clients are not always aware of the exploitative situation of victims. However, making a home available for illegal prostitution, or making an appointment as a client with a person who is being exploited, can have major consequences.

Van der Werf emphasizes that citizens can play an important role in recognizing exploitation. “Exploitation and human trafficking takes place in everyone’s neighbourhood, right under our noses. Also in the Northern Netherlands. Citizens in particular may be the first to see the signals, such as dependency, restriction of freedom by, for example, not having access to their own identity papers, sleeping at the workplace, several people coming and going, or social isolation. Traces of physical abuse can also indicate human trafficking. Important in this are the ‘housing companies’, people who ensure that homes in the neighborhoods can serve as places for illegal prostitution and exploitation.”

The safety of the victims is our number one priority, says Sietse van der Werf. “People who recognize these signals in their own environment, or perhaps have to deal with them themselves, can report to us, also anonymously. We handle this with care and it is precisely these signals that can be an important addition to our investigation. “

Reporting signals of human trafficking

Because human trafficking is a complex and often ‘hidden’ crime, it is important that as many signals of human trafficking as possible reach us.

If you, as a parent, social worker, teacher or friend have information about possible signs of human trafficking, you can report this as follows:

  • If there is an emergency, call 112 immediately
  • Call 0900-8844 and ask for the Migration Crime and Human Trafficking Team.
  • Use the online report form
  • You can also report anonymously via Meld Misdaad Anoniem: 0800-7000

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