Largest people trafficking case in Netherlands on trial
Two Turkish-German brothers are being tried in the Dutch city of Almelo in the largest people trafficking case ever heard in the Netherlands.11 July 2008
ALMELO - Two Turkish-German brothers are being tried in the Dutch city of Almelo in the largest people trafficking case ever heard in the Netherlands.
The case is known as the Sneep case, after the Dutch crime squad charged with investigating international women trafficking.
The gang, which was active in the Netherlands as well as Germany and Belgium, forced women into prostitution and battered and raped them as well as forcing the women to have breast enlargement surgery and abortions.
The brothers Hassan and Saban, and their accomplices face serious charges. Around 120 young women, most of them from Eastern Europe, were forced into prostitution after being lured to the West under false pretences.
The gang took their passports and threatened and intimidated the women and their relatives back home. The women were kept under constant observation.
The Dutch government appears to be implementing tougher measures against trafficking in women. According to investigative journalist Ruth Hopkins, author of a book about Hassan and Saban's gang, the Dutch authorities did little to stop the practice in the past.
"They've stepped up on the fight against trafficking, but I think for a long time it was just window-dressing."
The gang was also working in Amsterdam, where a crackdown on trafficking in women was part of a broader plan by the municipality to clean up the world-famous red light district.
However, Hopkins distrusts the municipality's motives, "Actually, only the local council really says that. Nobody believes it."
In order to effectively tackle the problem, cross-border co-operation between police forces is absolutely vital but, according to former prosecutor and MP Fred Teeven of the conservative VVD, it's their Achilles heel.
"It's difficult gathering evidence from witnesses and from sources in other countries."
Another problem is, in order to secure a conviction victims have to testify.
Understandably, many are reluctant. Support groups are calling on the government to start a witness protection scheme, which would include permanent visas for those who are in the Netherlands illegally.
Teeven disagrees, "I think you have to be very careful because in the courtroom the defence can say you bought a witness."
Sceptics emphasise that the Sneep case is just the tip of the iceberg. According to Hopkins, there are two people ready and waiting to take the place of every trafficker who ends up behind bars. The verdict is expected on Friday.
[Radio Netherlands / Expatica]