Dutch Crime Squad Closes Two Escort Sites

ROTTERDAM, Netherlands—According to an official announcement, the Dutch National Crime Squad said Tuesday that it has shut down two websites that belonged to escort agencies, accusing them of “being presumably involved in human trafficking.” The sites are Zuzana.com and PleasureEscorts.nl.

In addition to shuttering the sites and arresting two 32-year-old males involved with each website, and seeking information that will lead to the arrest of a 37-year-old male suspected of being the founder of Zuzana.com, the police also responded to approximately 1,300 calls to the escort services made from cell phones with text messages that contained the following information: “This number has contacted zuzana.com. This site presumably offers victims of human trafficking. The police ask for your help. For more info: www.politie.nl/klpd/mh.”

The release noted that the text-alert has been carried out by the police in order to enlarge consciousness of the clients contacting escort agencies and asking them to help in combating human trafficking.

According to the release, 90 percent out of the hundreds of mobile phones appear to be a Dutch mobile number, often registered on name of the employer. In 60 percent of the contacts, appointments for a prostitute were made during working hours.

On the websites shut down by the National Police Squad a warning message has been placed, referring to www.politie.nl/klpd/mh. On the police web page, extensive information regarding human trafficking is provided. Moreover, the opportunity is offered for individuals to pass on information concerning human trafficking.

Hotel chains are also being investigated along with the websites. “In the case of hotel-prostitution, the prostitute stays for a longer period in a hotel room, usually in one of the hotel-chains along the highways,” the release stated. “Clients make an appointment by telephone or through internet and are then informed by text-message about the room number of the woman who offers paid sex-services. Zuzana.com is an example of this procedure.”

Most of the alleged prostitutes are from Eastern Europe, according to the police, which say that associates of the PleasureEscorts website also are aware that females from countries in that region are being exploited.

“[The women] are travelling throughout Europe and stay one week at the time in a hotel or an apartment in the Netherlands,” the statement continued. “From this investigation it appears that [Zuzana.com] presumably is guilty of recruiting women for prostitution. This also comes under human trafficking according to the penal code. www.zuzana.com is visited by more then 7000 persons throughout Europe on a daily [basis].”

The General Prosecutor’s Office, the National Police Squad and the Royal Dutch Catering industry also apparently held a meeting Tuesday at the National Horecava Fair, where they reiterated a commitment entered into in November 2009 to work together to fight against illegal prostitution.

In related news, the Dutch government has alerted the country’s legal prostitutes that it will start cracking down to make sure they are paying their fair share of taxes. In notices published last week in Amsterdam’s main newspapers addressed "to landlords and window prostitutes in Amsterdam,” sex workers were told they would soon be audited in similar fashion to other businesses.

"Agents of the Tax Service will walk through various elements of your business administration with you, such as prices, staffing, agendas and calendars," the notice read.

According to CBSNews, citing an October study, approximately 3,000 prostitutes work behind windows in the city’s tourist-popular red light districts, and the city has about 8,000 sex workers of all types. Under Dutch law, the article continues, “prostitutes should be charging 19 percent sales tax on each transaction.”

The move by the Dutch tax authorities is attributed to Europe’s ongoing efforts to find every bit of revenue it can in the “new age of austerity.”