Human Trafficking: Operation Wizard

July 3, 2018 Crime , OPINION/NEWS , OTHER , South America

Reuters photo

 

By

Ricardo Swire

 

 

Two simultaneous law enforcement operations were recently staged by Interpol, Spain’s Civil Guard and Venezuela Bolivarian National Police, the tactical offensive shutting down a thriving, high-value, transnational sex trafficking network. The nine member criminal syndicate exploited girls and women who escaped South America’s ongoing violence. The sex trafficking scheme also channelled cash for money laundering and other organized crimes. Victims zealously sought employment opportunities overseas, but were connived and redirected to forced prostitution. Statistics highlight sex trafficking as the most common type of trafficking.

 

Eighty percent of human trafficking involves some type of sexual exploitation. The average cost of a person sold to slavery is US$90. In December 2017 Operation Wizard began after Spanish Civil Guard officers noticed a significant increase of Venezuelan female prostitutes, employed to nightclubs in Salamanca province north-western Spain. Previously an unrelated report by Eurostat, or the European Union (EU) statistics company, quantified 1,605 women smuggled to Spain, held against their will and forced to work as prostitutes, the second highest amount of human trafficking/sex slavery cases recorded in Europe.

 

On February 14, 2018 Spanish Civil Guard officers detained a sexual predator and member of an international ring, dedicated to the recruitment of children for paedophile purposes. His arrest was made in the Spanish port city Alicante. From May 30, 2018 Operation Wizard’s surveillance began across Salamanca, Toledo and Valencia provinces, with assistance from Venezuela’s Judicial Police. On Saturday June 16, 2018 the probe climaxed in Salamaca, Operation Wizard’s “control centre.”

 

Eight search warrants were executed at select residences. The law enforcement team confiscated €2,115, 877, 07 worth of illegal merchandise, 214 bank products, 105 financial instruments and 27 vehicles. Operation Wizard’s Bolivarian National Police participants detained one ringleader in Venezuela. He awaits extradition to Spain. The crime entity was comprised of five men and four women, ages ranging from twenty-two to sixty-five years.

 

Participating nightclubs reported to the sex trafficking syndicate bosses about the Venezuelan forced prostitutes’ activities and performances. Eight businesses were established as fronts to clean the cash, multiple phone numbers and varied itineraries being two extra security measures practiced to evade law enforcement surveillance. Operation Wizard enforcers exchanged intelligence and worked in tandem with Colombia’s state Norte de Santander counterparts.

 

An August 2017 regional intelligence report registered 25,000 Venezuelans traversing the Colombian border daily using six official crossings. Such arrivals boosted sex traffickers’ profits and provided alternative cheap labor across the region. Caribbean jurisdictions such as the Dominican Republic (DR) affected. Physical evidence dictated most Venezuelan migrants to the DR are drug mules. The Santo Domingo province Lead Prosecutor confirmed “it has broken all records” in his country. Since October 2016 three to four Venezuelan mules were intercepted weekly, entering the DR via commercial flights. Ninety percent of all drug mules caught by DR immigration and customs were Venezuelans.

 

 

 

 

Ricardo Swire - Tuck Magazine

Ricardo Swire

Ricardo Swire is the Principal Consultant at R-L-H Security Consultants & Business Support Services and writes on a number of important issues.

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