Brussels (AFP): Belgian police arrested 25 suspects on Tuesday in raids targeting an international ring allegedly trafficking Chinese sex workers, prosecutors said.
The swoop on two dozen addresses in several Belgian cities discovered more than 20 alleged trafficking victims, all Chinese, they said.
Alongside the Belgian raids, the police agency Europol coordinated Spanish raids in Barcelona and Alicante in which one suspect was arrested and held for extradition to Belgium.
"It's one of the biggest interventions in recent years in human trafficking circles," a spokesman for Belgium's federal prosecution service, Eric Van Duyse, said.
Most of those detained were of Chinese background, and three of them had Belgian citizenship.
According to prosecutors, the ring recruited women in China and moved them to Europe, where they were "sexually exploited, mostly in private prostitution," through specialised websites.
The organisation allegedly used online rentals of hotels and holiday homes for the activity, and kept the lion's share of the money generated by the women for itself.
Many of the women said to have been used by the gang were without valid European residency papers, "which increased their dependency" on the organisation.
They were "often moved around Europe" and the organisation's revenues were said to be transferred abroad through "legal and illegal" means.
The raids in Belgium took place in Brussels, Antwerp, Charleroi, Leuven, Louvain and Neufchateau, at 26 addresses.
The 25 suspects arrested in Belgium were being interrogated by police, who were to refer any with sufficient evidence against them to an investigating judge.