The Hague, 27 May 2008
Following a co-ordinated action by Portuguese and Spanish authorities, carried out with the support of Eurojust through the National Members for Portugal and Spain, a criminal organisation engaged in activities related to trafficking in human beings was dismantled on 21 April 2008. A large amount of money was seized and 31 persons were arrested, 19 in Spain and 12 in Portugal.
This organisation was operating from Portugal and was recruiting Portuguese nationals to work in Spain, especially in the vineyards of the La Rioja region. They were promised an attractive salary and good working conditions, but, in fact, these workers were never paid for their work and were forced to live in inhuman conditions.
Eurojusts intervention was requested by the Portuguese authorities at the start of the investigation. The gathering of evidence took almost three years in the framework of complex investigations carried out by Portuguese and Spanish authorities, with co-ordination managed by Eurojust.
In the context of this successful collaboration, the National Members for Portugal and Spain, acting proactively in order to avoid possible conflicts of jurisdiction and to ensure that future developments will go on in the same harmonious way, made a recommendation to their national authorities, based on article 6 a) iii) of the Eurojust Decision of 28 February 2002. Using this power, Eurojust asked the competent authorities involved to recognise that Portugal was better placed to prosecute this criminal organisation.
The positive results of this co-ordination stress the importance of involving Eurojust in the fight against organised transnational crime from the start of the investigations. At the same time it draws attention to the need to use, on a regular basis, the powers granted to Eurojust and to its National Members according to the Eurojust Decision. The fight against organised crime can only be successful if it is dealt with in a co-ordinated way by the police and judicial authorities at internal and international level.