Victims were forced to live in a room with no central heating and broken windows.
Victims were forced to live in a room with no central heating and broken windows. Credit: Polisens FUP

Two Bulgarians given four years for human trafficking

2:50 min

Two Bulgarian men have been sentenced to four years and two months each in prison for running a human trafficking network where victims were forced to beg to pay off debts.

The men, who were 49 and 42 years old, lured other Bulgarians to Sweden, promising them jobs on building sites. They then forced them to beg to pay off the cost of their journey to Sweden.

The minimum sentence for human trafficking in Sweden is only two years.

The prosecutor in the case, Jenny Clemedtson, said the harsh sentence reflected how organised the operation had been.

"I think that the reason for that is that this has been organised, it's been going on for a long time, about 16 months, and nine people have been victims of this,” she told Radio Sweden.

According to the court, victims of the network were treated like slaves, forced to live through the winter in a building with broken windows and no central heating, and fed with food foraged from bins.

They were forced to hand over more or less every krona they earned from begging directly to the organisers, and were kept under close surveillance. 

The court also ordered the two men to pay SEK 370,000 in combined damages to seven of the victims, and banned them from entering Sweden for ten years. 

Clemedtson said the cooperation of the Bulgarian police, the International Organisation for Migration, and the Social Services in Örebro had all been crucial to the investigation’s success.

She said she hoped that the judgement would encourage police in other parts of Sweden to crack down on human trafficking networks linked to begging.

“Maybe it will send a signal to police authorities that it's worth trying and not giving up even if people don't want to talk in the first interview, and not to give up if victims have left the country,” she said.

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