The five suspects detained Tuesday on sex trafficking charges, including three cops, have been remanded in custody while police did not rule out additional arrests pending the course of the investigation.
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The Nicosia District Court ordered the suspects to be remanded for seven days on Wednesday, as police investigators sift through evidence involving trafficking and corruption that shocked public opinion.
The case began with an anti-human trafficking police raid at a Nicosia pub on August 1, which came just over a month after a US report praised authorities for their efforts in combating sex trafficking while asking them to do more.
In late June, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo praised the government for bolstering its efforts to convict traffickers and improve protections for victims, while pointing out that many countries were stepping up their efforts while others were making it easier for traffickers to commit crimes.
It later turned out that the two officers manned visa inspection booths at Larnaca International Airport during times when several trafficked women passed through
During the early stages of the investigation, police learned of two police officers who were receiving money in exchange of helping an illegal network bring trafficked women into the country on false pretences.
It later turned out that the two officers manned visa inspection booths at Larnaca International Airport during times when several women passed through the Port of Entry, where the suspects reportedly turned a blind eye.
The total number of victims or police officers involved in the illegal operation was not immediately known.
Police spokesperson Andreas Angelides said on Tuesday that the investigation was ongoing, counting at least 25 offences and covering a massive volume of evidence with potential new leads.
“We will take more statements from individuals including possibly other officers, and we will pursue any development depending on what we find in the course of the investigation in order to get to the bottom of the case,” Angelides said.
According to local reports, in some cases the two police officers would enter non-existing amounts of money in the system, such as €500 and €1500, updating immigration records to show the women were arriving with cash on tourist visas, while in fact they were being transported to a Nicosia apartment with a downstairs pub where they had to spend time with male customers.
The operation led to the arrest of the five suspects on Tuesday, including three police officers aged 28, 41, and 31, as well as a Nicosia pub owner aged 36 and his 33-year-old girlfriend from Moldova.
One of the officers was reportedly handpicked by police this summer to serve as one of the drivers for the attorney general. However, police said the offences were committed between December 2017 and August 2018, essentially dismissing any insinuations about the transfer.
Most of the victims were Eastern European women, mainly from Moldova and Ukraine, who were being pushed into prostitution.
Charges include conspiracy to commit a crime, corruption, human trafficking, abuse of authority, sexual exploitation, bribery, and assisting an alien to illegally enter into the Republic of Cyprus.