* Slavery in the 21st Century: Five persons kept in chains and whipped in order to work in Arges

Authorities have discovered five persons kept captive on a farm in Arges County. The captives were children but also poor persons and persons with physical or mental disabilities.

According to a DIICOT communique issued on Wednesday, several crime rings set up since 2008, on the basis of family relations, recruited around 40 persons, both minors and adults, by coercing, misleading or kidnapping them or by taking advantage of their vulnerable condition (being underage, having physical or mental disabilities, living in poverty), in order to exploit them by forcing them to work and beg. The procedures used resulted in the victims being in a state of servitude and deprived of freedom.

The investigations have showed that the suspects were allegedly selling timber obtained both legally and through illegal logging.

Some of the victims had been kidnapped by human traffickers from outside churches, train stations or right from their homes.

Investigators state that at the farm, located in the Gamacesti hamlet, Berevoiesti commune, the victims were kept in chains, locked up throughout the night, whipped and kicked. The captives were humiliated to the amusement of the suspects: they were stripped naked, hot and then cold water was poured on them, they were forced to beat each other or to eat from the ground. There is also the suspicion that some of the victims were raped.

Those kidnapped were forced to sweep the courtyard, do the laundry, tend the livestock, engage in illegal logging in the forests nearby and transport the timber back to the farm using horses. From there the timber was loaded into the suspects’ trucks. The suspects were then selling it illegally in southern parts of the country, mainly in Giurgiu, Teleorman, Olt and Dolj counties.

Other captives were forced to beg, being closely monitored by the suspects.

On Wednesday, police officers from Pitesti and Craiova conducted 40 raids in Arges County, under the coordination of DIICOT Pitesti prosecutors, in order to dismantle nine crime rings specialising in the exploitation of vulnerable persons.

According to DIICOT, a criminal probe has started in this case against 40 persons that were brought in for hearings. Arges Police points out that a total of 90 persons are targeted by this case.

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