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  • Koolvis case

    Country: the Netherlands

    Court: Zwolle District Court

    Sentenced date: 10 December 2009

    Purpose of exploitation: Exploitation of the prostitution

    In May 2006, the Netherlands Centre of Expertise on Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling (EMM) received a report from a lawyer who suspected that her Nigerian client was a victim of human trafficking. An analysis of flights at Schiphol Airport, carried out in response to this report, showed that a relatively large number of unaccompanied underage aliens from Nigeria had entered the country in the period from October 2005 to May 2006. It was also observed that after October 2005, more unaccompanied underage Nigerians had disappeared without a trace from shelters and safe houses for victims of human trafficking throughout the Netherlands. More than 30 incidents similar to the original notification were identified. The Netherlands was being used by Nigerian criminal organisations as a transit country in human trafficking. It was being used as the port of entry to the Schengen area through the misuse of the asylum procedure or, in some cases, the B9 regulation for victims of human trafficking, and the associated shelter. The final destination was usually Italy or Spain, where the unaccompanied underage Nigerians were then exploited by being forced to work as prostitutes.

    The entire criminal organisation was exposed and more than 140 victims were ultimately identified. This led to coordinated international raids in October 2007 (and in January 2008 in Italy) and the successful arrest of dozens of suspects, including ‘fixers’ who arranged accommodation and connecting travel in the Netherlands, and madams (pimps) in Italy who had ‘ordered’ the victims, etc. The four primary suspects included the main sponsor (who had his own travel agency in Nigeria and who arranged the false documents) and three leaders of the organisation in Great Britain, Ireland and the United States. Some of the suspects had remarkable police records, which showed that some of them had repeatedly been arrested over the years for practices related to human trafficking. Nigeria, Italy and the Netherlands prosecuted the suspects; the other countries involved have extradited the suspects they arrested. In December 2009, six suspects were convicted for human smuggling in association with others and leading a criminal organisation or participating in one. They were acquitted of trafficking in human beings, since the court found that it could not be concluded that the suspects had knowledge of the things that had happened to the girls in Nigeria or the things that would probably happen to them in Italy and/or Spain, including forced prostitution. They received sentences of between one year and four and a half years in prison.