Sweden wakes up to the “white slave trade”

Four Estonians appeared in court in Stockholm last week suspected of running a major prostitution racket from December 2003 until April 2004.

They were accused of recruiting twenty young women from their home country to work as prostitutes in the organisation’s own brothels, in hotels and at clients’ homes.

The investigation revealed that both the gang leaders and the women made a considerable amount of money. Records retrieved indicated that the women kept between 30 and 50% of their earnings, with one woman earning between 15,000 and 20,000 crowns a week.

Five clients are also being charged with procuring sexual favours as part of the prosecution.

Skåne, which includes Sweden’s third city, Malmö, is lagging behind Stockholm and Gothenburg in dealing with the so-called “white slave trade”.

In 2002 a new law came into force to facilitate the prosecution of individuals involved in the trafficking of people for sexual purposes. The government made available 30 million crowns to fund investigations. Authorities in Skåne have so far failed to apply for a single öre.

But the picture isn’t much better in Stockholm and Gothenburg. Although they’ve been better at registering and investigating white slave crimes, the new law has so far only resulted in one conviction. Inspector Kajsa Wahlberg of the National Police Agency told SvD:

“The law against trafficking is given different priority by different police authorities. It faces tough competition from drugs. There are negative attitudes about trafficking throughout the judicial system.”

An example of how authorities in Skåne have been missing opportunities to investigate potential trafficking cases came in the National Police Agency’s latest annual report.

Police found a 17 year old Polish girl who had slashed her wrists. With the help of the Immigration Service, she was simply deported back to Poland without being questioned about what she was doing in Sweden.

Ingela Klinteberg, deputy chief prosecutor in Landskrona, Skåne, certainly thinks attitudes need changing:

“If traffic police find two young girls with an older man who doesn’t speak the same language, they must ask themselves what’s going on. Even if it means possibly instigating a difficult investigation.”

However, things should be changing. Peter Tjäder, head of tactical operations for Skåne police, said a specially appointed commission to tackle the problem is the only sensible answer.

“We haven’t done as many operations against trafficking as against other serious crime. We haven’t even assigned resources to the problem. Trafficking demands a lot of intelligence work, police have to uncover the cases themselves. Tips from the public or other people are very unusual. It’s embarrassing that we haven’t been able to devote the necessary resources before. We need to do something about it.”

Sources: Svenska Dagbladet, Expressen, Aftonbladet, Göteborgs Posten