Bulgarian and French law enforcement authorities, supported by Europol and Eurojust, dismantled an organised crime group involved in trafficking human beings for labour exploitation and money laundering.
According Eurojust, which coordinated the work of the French and Bulgarian investigators, 167 alleged victims of human trafficking have been identified since the case opened in France last February by the Inter-regional Specialized Jurisdiction (JIRS) of Lyon, working in collaboration with Bulgarian authorities.
In total, more than 80 investigators have been mobilised in recent months to dismantle the Franco-Bulgarian network.
Bulgarian nationals from disadvantaged regions were recruited by the traffickers to work as seasonal workers for the French agricultural sector. The workers signed employment contracts in a foreign language while being told they would receive €60 a day. In addition to the wage, the workers were also promised housing and transport.
“In reality, they were sent to France in unlicensed transport and then put up on a campsite with money taken out of their wages for meals. When their contracts came to an end, the agency also withheld transport costs and other various charges from the final payroll. The workers’ final salaries were often not enough to even cover their trip back to Bulgaria. The network used this money and laundered it through properties in France,” Eurojust, said in a statement.
Four people – three from Bulgaria and one from France – aged between 30 and 60 were arrested on charges of “illegal organised labour”, “trafficking in human beings for the purpose of exploitation through organised gang work “and” criminal conspiracy “.
The Bulgarian members of the group were responsible for recruitment in Bulgaria while the French member arranged logistics, including organising accommodation for the workers, Eurojust said.