A total of 34 people, mostly from Vietnam, went on trial in southern Sweden on Tuesday accused of trafficking people from Vietnam to Sweden, judicial sources said.
The suspects are accused of “having set up a human trafficking ring, fraud … and entering fake marriages,” Jan Waren, a judge at the Halmstad district court told AFP.
Of the 34, 15 are Vietnamese citizens, 18 are Swedes of Vietnamese origin and one is a Swede.
The police investigation, which lasted almost three years, unravelled a vast trafficking ring, says the head of the police inquiry, Marianne Paulsson.
She says the smuggling occurred for several years, although the investigation only covered the period 2003 to 2007.
Several individuals were paid to travel to Vietnam, marry Vietnamese citizens and then bring them into Sweden, with the partners paying a large fee to be brought into the Scandinavian country.
Others also brought over children they claimed were their own but who were in fact children whose parents had paid large sums of money for them to be brought to Sweden in search of a better life.
Once in the country, the Vietnamese were entirely dependent on their smugglers, to whom they or their parents owed significant amounts of money.
“We have examples of people who worked in restaurants where the conditions more or less resembled slave labour,” Paulsson says. “Young people had to quit school to help their parents repay their debt.”
The accused allegedly earned more than 10 million kronor (1.07 million euros, 1.62 million dollars) from the alleged racket and now risk between six months and six years in prison, Paulsson said.
The court is expected to give its verdict at the end of May.