Police forces from 52 countries arrested over 300 people and swooped on red-light districts to bust several trafficking gangs in a week-long, round-the-clock operation, Europol said on Wednesday.
The action led by the European police agency focused “on disrupting the most dangerous criminal networks currently active” including those dealing in illegal immigration, people and drug trafficking and cybercrime.
Some 529 victims of trafficking were found in brothels and massage parlors, a total of 314 people arrested and about 2.4 tons of cocaine was seized.
Operation Ciconia Alba was coordinated by Europol from its headquarters in The Hague in what it called “a major blow to organized crime groups operating across the European Union and beyond.” Raids “targeted red-light districts, brothels, massage parlors, private apartments, airports and immigration reception centers,” the agency said in a statement.
The nationalities of those arrested as well as those rescued showed that “trafficking networks originating in Nigeria, Asia and Eastern Europe are the most active in the EU.”
A fake travel agency was uncovered in Greece and a total of 745 migrants were identified in the operation which also involved the European border agency Frontex, Interpol and Eurojust. More than 540,000 people and vehicles were searched and checked and a total of 181,500 euros was seized.
The raids also aimed to crackdown on credit card fraud, and among those arrested were 140 people caught with airline tickets bought with stolen credit cards. And in Austria, during a raid on an illegal brothel, police also uncovered a cannabis plantation.
“Countries and organizations across the globe working together as one entity is the modern response to borderless serious and organized crime,” said Europol chief Rob Wainwright.
Alongside all EU members, some 24 non-EU nations took part including Ecuador, Indonesia, Nigeria, the United States and the United Arab Emirates.