Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Romania smashes human trafficking ring -prosecutor

BUCHAREST, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Romanian police have broken up a network suspected of smuggling women to western Europe and charged 30 people with human trafficking and Internet fraud, an organised crime prosecutor said on Monday.

The group, known as the Cordunenilor Gang after the family alleged to control it, operated in Italy, Spain, Germany, Britain and Ireland, a prosecutor from the northern city of Iasi told Reuters by telephone. He declined to be identified by name.The group's victims were sexually exploited, obliged to become beggars or forced into pickpocket gangs in major European cities, he said.

In recent years, several such rings have been dismantled in the Balkan country, which joined the European Union in 2007 and is the bloc's second poorest state after Bulgaria.Romania aims to join the EU's Schengen zone of passport-free travel in 2011. Strengthening the fight against cross-border crime is one of the conditions for joining the area. (Reporting by Ioana Patran; Editing by Paul Taylor)

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