Police identify two local ringleaders, sources say
Police say they have identified the two people leading the trafficking operation locally. Photo: Malta Police Force
Two Ukrainian men allegedly behind a human trafficking racket will be charged in court in the coming days after their victims spilled the beans to investigators.
The local arm of an international organised crime syndicate was discovered trafficking Eastern Europeans into Malta and the police have now identified the two men who were running the Maltese side of the operation.
The Times of Malta reported on Saturday how Ukrainians were being brought into Malta and made to work in precarious conditions. A group of 23 men were all discovered in a joint operation between the Police and Identity Malta.
The Saturday report also revealed investigators’ fears that the racketeers may have had the help of people within State authorities.
“One of the big questions we have to ask now is, how were they getting away with this? How was this happening?” senior investigators had said.
In a statement, the government yesterday categorically denied that authorities could have in any way helped traffickers.
“In fact, after weeks of investigations by the police with the assistance of Identity Malta, which uncovered this case of human trafficking, the government can confirm that there were no public officials involved,” the government said.
It added that Ukranian nationals did not need a visa to travel to Malta and therefore they did not need any help from local authorities to conduct their illegal activities.
The same investigative sources yesterday said that although visas were not required to enter the island, the human trafficking victims had still been working illegally on the island.
“My concerns that at the very least, someone turned a blind eye, still stand,” one source said.
The government had released a brief statement on Thursday evening saying that around 20 human trafficking victims would be granted emergency protection status.
These are believed to have been working in the construction and catering industries, and investigators are looking into past cases of trafficking by the same group.
How are people being trafficked into Malta?
The business model used by this Ukrainian gang would be to trick foreigners from non-EU countries into agreeing to come to Malta under false pretences. The promise of steady and well-paid employment often proved too good to pass up, however the eager workers would later find themselves stranded in the EU, made to work under precarious conditions and without the necessary paperwork.
This, however, was just one approach.
“There are different types of this crime. Some are tricked into coming here, for instance doctors who are told they will work at Mater Dei [hospital] and end up being cleaners. Others want to get on the island, and know fully well what they are signing up for,” the source said.