The police’s anti-organized crime unit (ÚOOZ) announced on Friday that they had arrested a gang of 8 from Pardubice, eastern Bohemia, on charges of soliciting sexual services — i.e., pimping — and human trafficking. Four of those arrested have also been charged with robbery. The arrests follow an investigation launched at the beginning of 2010. Five of the gang members face up to 12 years in prison if found guilty and the other three members — eight years.
According to a statement issued by ÚOOZ on Friday, in 1997 three of the gang members opened a nightclub in Pardubice, eastern Bohemia, where sexual services were provided. In time, the other five associates joined the business and helped procure woman to work as prostitutes and entice clients. The women providing sexual services included Slovak, Ukrainian and Nigerian nationals as well as Czechs and were aged between 18 and 35.
Investigators say the women were forced to pay part of their earnings to the club’s owners and one young woman says she was The four main gang members reportedly made considerable profits from their illicit business and had homes with swimming pools and tennis courts built.forced into prostitution under threat of violence from the gang.
One of the suspects went on to establish a security firm whose personnel put pressure, including physical violence, on the gang’s business rivals to “dissuade” them from running the same line of business in the Pardubice and Chrudim areas.
The four main gang members reportedly made considerable profits from their illicit business and built lavish homes with swimming pools and tennis courts. Police confiscated property, including expensive cars, with an estimated value of over Kč 30 million.
ÚOOZ spokesman Pavel Hanták told Czech Position that the gang members were arrested in mid-June since when they have all been held in custody, adding that the arrests were not announced earlier due to circumstances surrounding the investigation.
The arrests were conducted by special police units due to reports that the men may be illegally armed. The arrests were made at the homes of the gang members, their nightclub and in public and during the raids found weapons both licensed and held illegally, documental evidence and around Kč 500,000 in cash.
Prostitution remains a grey area in Czech law. Providing paid sexual services is in itself not punishable, though failure to declare income is. However, under the Czech Criminal Code offering sexual services near schools or other institutions or locations designated for children is a criminal offense, carrying a sentence of up to two years in prison.
Procurement, or pimping, defined as inciting, persuading or forcing someone to provide sexual services, arranging for the provision of sexual services by others, or profiting from sexual services provided by others, is punishable with imprisonment from six months to two years, and up to eight years if the culprit is a member of an organized criminal group or causes harm to the person providing sexual services.
There have been several initiatives in recent years by Czech politicians to legalize and regulate prostitution. The most recent was tabled by a group of Prague councilors which proposes mandatory registration and regular health checks. The proposal has made no headway, however, and it is probable that the proposed bylaws would conflict with the Criminal Code.
According to a recent article in the weekly Respekt, there are around 10,000 prostitutes in the Czech Republic who together generate a total of between Kč 10 billion and Kč 11 billion a year – roughly the same as the Škoda car company, the publication points out. The article does not say, however, who calculated the estimate and what methods were used.