The four Thai women and a German man have been charged with forced prostitution, people trafficking, and exploitation. Prosecutors say the gang took 39 Thai women to Germany over a five-year period.
The trial of a gang charged with operating a prostitution ring across Germany began in the state of Hesse on Tuesday. Prosecutors allege the five members used accomplices to smuggle prostitutes into Germany and hired them out as sex slaves.
The four Thais and a German are charged with forced prostitution, people trafficking, exploitation, withholding pay and tax evasion. The trafficked women, described as transsexuals, were allegedly forced work on rotation between three brothels in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia before being transferred to others in Hesse, Baden-Württemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland.
Prosecutors said they identified some 39 women trafficked over a five year period between 2012-2017, however the number of victims was likely much higher. The victims reportedly include transgender women.
Some 62 brothels, apartments and offices across 12 states were searched in 2018. Almost €250,000 ($279,000) in cash was found during the operations which involved more than 1,500 police officers. The defendants have been in custody since then.
Two other suspects were arrested and are being investigated separately. The gang has been under investigation since 2016.
The gang is accused of embezzling wages and not registering workers for social security. The five defendants, aged between 49 and 63, are also accused of tax evasion to the tune of millions of euros.
Prostitution is legal in Germany, where legislation known as the prostitution law (Prostitutionsgesetz) allows sex workers to register for state-run health insurance, pensions and unemployment benefits.
The trial is being held in the state court of Hanau in the state of Hesse.
kw/rt (AFP, dpa)