BERLIN (AFP) - German police carried out dawn raids on Wednesday (April 18) against an alleged organised crime ring suspected of human trafficking for forced prostitution on a massive scale from Thailand.
Calling it the "biggest operation in terms of manpower in the history of the federal police force", it said in a statement that some 1,500 officers swooped on 63 brothels and flats in 12 of Germany's 16 states.
Authorities say a "core group" of 17 suspects "smuggled Thai women and transsexuals into Germany with fraudulent Schengen visas".
Those brought to Germany "had to hand over 100 per cent of their wages to the operators of the respective 'massage parlours' to pay off their smuggling fee" of between €16,000 and €36,000 euros (S$25,946-S$58,380).
Seven of the accused, including a 59-year-old Thai woman and her 62-year-old German partner, were taken into custody on outstanding arrest warrants.
Prosecutors in the western city of Frankfurt, who have been working with police on the case since February 2017, estimate that the ring drew more than one million euros in income.
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer praised the operation as an "unprecedented strike against a national organised crime network".
"Several hundred women and men were at the mercy of the inhumane, boundless greed of human smugglers for years and across borders," he said.
"This unscrupulous behaviour and the sexual exploitation on an abominable scale were put to an end today."