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31 Mar, 2009 06:22

Human trafficking to rise due to financial crisis

A network of 13 people, reportedly headed by a senior intelligence official, are facing charges of human trafficking. It follows a case where more than 130 women were sold as slaves across Europe.

This most recent slave-trade case has shocked the public as the man who allegedly pulled the strings of the crime network is a senior official in Russian Intelligence. Leaks from the prosecution claim he acquired documents for the women under the pretence they were needed for secret intelligence missions abroad.

“The investigation has shown that in the period from 1999 to 2007, this criminal organization sold over 130 women, most of whom were citizens of Moldova, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Belarus and Russia. They were sold to Israel, Italy, Spain, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands and the United Arab Emirates,” investigator Alexander Kudlay said.

In the nineties tempting offers of work abroad flooded the internet and are still found in abundance. Dubious employers promise high wages for working as waitresses or nurses, but upon arrival the women are stripped of their passports and forced into slavery.

Olga was among those who swallowed the bait. Her fate was decided over a cup of coffee.

“We arrived in Jerusalem. The guy who escorted me met with another man. We were sitting in a cafe and as I listened to their conversation, I suddenly realised that I was being sold. When they struck the deal I was taken to a brothel where I stayed for a year,” she remembered.

She spent one year in captivity in Tel-Aviv.

Today she is working in a rehabilitation centre for women who were victims of trafficking.

“People are easily deceived by new illusions to find a job elsewhere,” Alberto Adriani from International Organization for Migration said.

Russia has one of the worst records for human trafficking, both importing and exporting slaves.

It is a profitable business with an estimated trade worth $42 billion a year. Experts say statistics are likely to rise with the current economic downturn.

“It was increasing before, it will increase always. What I think is necessary is to increase the exchange of information on the international level to find a common strategy,” Alberto Adriani said.

Thirteen men have been detained on various charges, ten of them in custody, and may face trial in the spring. With human rights organizations suggesting that tens of thousands of women are enslaved in the sex-trade, experts say that this one case alone is merely the tip of the iceberg.