20 January 2005
BRUSSELS – Five people have been charged after police smashed one of the biggest ever prostitution rings detected in Belgium.
During a 10-year investigation, Brussels Region detectives and the federal force traced 444 women who had been smuggled into the country from the Dominican Republic.
The criminals could not have brought so many women to Belgium if it had not been for the help of the corrupt Belgian consul of Santo Domingo, Juan Periche.
The organisers of the Florida network – as it was dubbed – recruited the prettiest girls in the Republic. They then obtained a three-month visa for them through Periche.
If the girls couldn’t afford the 1,000 dollar visa, Periche took sexual favours for the rest.
The network began using the Dutch consul when the scam became too transparent.
According to investigators, the girls were flown to Brussels, with their visas and 1,000 dollars in cash to prove at the airport that they had sufficient means to support themselves.
Once in Belgium, the leader of the network in this country – a 45-year-old Molenbeek woman identified only as Flerida M. – found the girls accommodation, showed them the city and found them work in bars.
Within three months, the girls had to find a man willing to marry them for Belgian papers.
The husbands were paid EUR 3,700 to EUR 6,200, plus a return trip to the Dominican Republic and the price of a 15-day visit there.
Flerida accompanied the couples to the Republic to ensure all went well.
The money was given to the men in EUR 1,250 installments as each stage of the pretence was completed.
Finally, the women would return to Belgium with their new husbands, without the need for a tourist visa.
Several weeks later, they would divorce the husband and begin work as a prostitute for the leaders of the Florida network.
Police believe at least 55 percent of the women brought from the Dominican Republic are now working as prostitutes here or in Luxemburg or the Netherlands.
The ring had been running since 1989 and was even mentioned in Chris De Stoop’s book Elles sont si gentilles (“The girls are so kind”).
Judge Jeroen Burm has charged the five defendants with people trafficking and running prostitution, money-laundering and a criminal organisation.
[Copyright Expatica 2005]
Subject: Belgian news