Between 30 and 40 people suspected of involvement in the smuggling operation are to be indicted on Monday, according to Tomas Wennerstrand, prosecutor in the south-western town of Halmstad. They are suspected of crimes including people smuggling, fraud and using false documents.
Wennerstrand said the indictment covered “those who organized the smuggling itself, those who have received payment and those who have submitted false birth certificates for the children and other false papers.”
Prosecutors plan to submit a charge sheet to Halmstad District Court on Monday morning.
Preparations have already begun for the trial, which is expected to last 33 days, starting on March 4th. The court has rented meeting rooms in Halmstad to house the large number of suspects, their lawyers, members of the public and journalists.
“There will be two judges to enable us to keep the trial going even if one of use should fall ill, for example,” said Elisabeth Karlén, one of the two judges set to hear the case.
“The court will also have more lay judges than usual – five instead of the usual three,” Karlén said.
Wennerstrand said that some of the allegedly smuggled children were being cared for by social services after being abandoned or having been exposed to harm in some other way. Others remain with adults who have papers claiming parenthood. These children in most cases have their parents in Vietnam.
It is unclear how many children might have been smuggled, prosecutors say.
“There is a large number of undetected cases, but we have handled around 25 children,” said Wennerstrand.
Only one of the suspects in the case has been remanded in custody – a women arrested in January on suspicion of contempt of court after she allegedly told other suspects what to say to the police, threatening them with reprisals if they did not do as she said. Charges against the woman will be presented next week.