German police detain seven in raids on sex traffickers

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BERLIN, APR 18,
German authorities raided dozens of properties and arrested seven people on Wednesday in an investigation of an alleged trafficking ring set up to bring Thai women and transsexuals to Germany to work as prostitutes.
Raids on 62 properties were conducted across Germany in what the country’s federal police force said was its biggest such operation ever, involving more than 1,500 officers. Prosecutors in Frankfurt said the chief suspects are a 59-year-old Thai national and her 62-year-old German partner, who are suspected of setting up the network.
Officials say the couple ran three brothels in Siegen, in western Germany. The Thais, who entered the country on fraudulently obtained tourist visas, were initially put to work there as prostitutes before being sent on to other towns, prosecutors said. Federal police spokesman Ralf Stroeher told n-tv television. investigators in April 2017 started looking into the group, “which, according to our investigation so far, trafficked women and transsexuals from Thailand to Germany in over 100 cases.” Prosecutors say they so far have concrete evidence that 32 Thais were trafficked into Germany by the group.
The prostitutes who were found at the brothels were detained, Mr. Stroeher said. Germany, which legalised prostitution in 2002, has sought to regulate brothels more strictly in recent years.
In all, 56 people are under investigation 41 women and 15 men, aged between 26 and 66. They are suspected of offenses including trafficking foreigners, forced prostitution, pimping, withholding and embezzling wages, and tax evasion.
The prostitutes’ wages allegedly were largely retained by the suspects to cover costs of between 16,000 and 36,000 euros ($19,800 and $44,500) that they claimed were incurred to get the Thais to Germany, as well as “rental” and living costs at the brothels.
The main suspects failed to register their workers for social benefits between 2012 and 2017, prosecutors said.
Most of those trafficked were transsexuals, said Alexander Badle, a spokesman for prosecutors.

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