Another cop has been arrested in connection with a human trafficking case, with a total of four police officers being suspended in connection with an illegal prostitution ring that made headlines last month.
A 44-year-old Larnaca police officer was arrested on Friday along with two other men, aged 36 and 38 who were re-arrested in the case. The latest suspect, and the two men who were previously released, a cop and a pub owner, are all facing charges of bribery and corruption.
The case began with an anti-human trafficking police raid at a Nicosia pub on August 1, which later pointed two police officers manning visa inspection booths at Larnaca International Airport. They were accused of taking part in the illegal operation by turning a blind eye and letting trafficked Eastern European women pass through the Port of Entry.
Media reports said the victims came to Cyprus to find work and they worked at the pub illegally, where they also lived in an apartment on the upper floor of the establishment. The women told authorities they were forced to pay for room and board from money they made drinking with paying customers and sleeping with them at the urging of their boss.
During police raids, the owner used to be tipped off in advance by his own people and made sure no women would be seen by police officers
The trafficking victims were reportedly women in their 20’s from Eastern Europe, either in financial trouble or facing difficult family circumstances, while some of them had children of their own back home.
The pub owner’s girlfriend was also arrested in the case but was released last month, with no further information as to possible charges. It is not clear how police view her involvement in the case.
At least nine women, mostly from Ukraine and Moldova, have been identified as victims of sex trafficking in the case. They were reportedly not free to walk outside without the approval of the pub owner, even when they were not working.
During police raids, the women said, the owner used to be tipped off in advance by his own people and then made sure no women would be seen by police officers.
The latest line of arrests comes following comments by police who said investigators were sifting through bank account transactions and telecommunications data in order to piece together their understanding of a possible cooperation between all suspects.
In late September, police sought input from the attorney general as to how they might proceed with the case, which has received a lot of attention around the world. A US report in the summer had praised authorities for their efforts in combating sex trafficking while asking them to do more.
While prostitution is not illegal in the Republic of Cyprus, trafficking, pimping, and public soliciting for sex are offences punishable by law.