The police operation against organized human trafficking took place in Kronoberg and Kalmar counties, as well as in Bulgaria, and involved the serious international crime division of police in the south of Sweden along with the assistance of Bulgarian authorities.
“We're in the middle of a very extensive investigation where we have hit serious international organized crime which used vulnerable people from Bulgaria to beg in Sweden. A criminal network has then taken the earnings from the beggars,” the head of the international organized crime division of Sweden's South police region Mattias Sigfridsson said.
The operation started in April 2017 when a Bulgarian man in Växjö was kidnapped and seriously assaulted by two men, who were sentenced for the crime by a district court.
In the police investigation, officers managed to track a criminal network from its base in Växjö, and discovered it was transporting more Bulgarian citizens to in order for them to beg.
“Our mapping of the criminal network shows that from 2016 to 2017 millions were turned over in money that came from vulnerable people who were transported to Sweden to beg,” Sigfridsson added.
A total of 20 victims from Bulgaria, men and women between the age of 20 and 40 have been attended to, police said.
Police said on Tuesday that four men and a woman, aged 20-40, had been arrested in Sweden on suspicion of taking part in human trafficking. A fifth man was arrested on suspicion of money laundering.
Three men aged between 40 and 60 were also remanded in Bulgaria, with two subject to extradition orders to Sweden, and the third still at large and set to be placed on an international wanted list.