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07 Aug 2019, 11:30 AM

STA, 6 August 2019 - Sergej Racman, an erstwhile successful businessman who is wanted in Slovenia under an Interpol Red Notice alert for his alleged role in a prostitution ring, has expressed willingness to make himself available for proceedings running against him, provided he is allowed to preserve his dignity.

"Racman is not on the run or avoiding criminal procedure to avoid his accountability in any way," his lawyer Nataša Pirc Musar said in a written statement on Tuesday.

She said that Racman did not report to law enforcement authorities because he had been living abroad since 2010. She said the European arrest warrant and the Interpol Red Notice were unnecessary.

Racman, the former owner of the cinema chain operator Kolosej, has been wanted since late July when the court ordered his detention as a prime suspect in a prostitution ring operating near Nova Gorica.

The ring, which allegedly abused more than 400 foreign girls for prostitution in the Marina Sauna Club near Nova Gorica since August 2014, was dismantled by the police in January.

In July the Koper district prosecution filed an indictment against 18 individuals and one legal entity charging them with prostitution, human trafficking and drug abuse.

Racman's lawyer said that the businessman "has never been involved in peddling prostitution and justifiably expects that he will be cleared of the charge in the judicial proceedings".

However, she said that, until the trial, Racman expected "the law enforcement authorities to respect his person and his dignity".

Alerting the media about the time and place of the handover or arrest would "undoubtedly lead to uncalled for humiliation and ridicule of the suspect", the lawyer said.

Racman "rejects obvious attempts by the law enforcement authorities to make a public spectacle out of his arrival in Slovenia", the lawyer said.

The lawyer said the law enforcement authorities have been notified of Racman's willingness to return to Slovenia and defend himself in a way that will allow him to keep his dignity.

All our stories on prostitution in Slovenia can be found here

01 Aug 2019, 12:45 PM

STA, 31 July 2019 - Interpol has issued an arrest warrant against Slovenian businessmen Sergej Racman, the former owner of the cinema chain operator Kolosej, who is being sought by the Slovenian police in connection with a prostitution ring that was allegedly operating near Nova Gorica.

Racman has recently been indicted as the prime suspect together with 17 persons after the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) completed in January a four-year investigation into prostitution, human trafficking and drug abuse in the areas of Nova Gorica and Maribor.

Following the indictment, which is not yet final, the Koper District Court ordered two weeks ago that Racman be detained, but the Slovenian police have not been able to locate him, putting him on a list of wanted persons.

The police issued last Wednesday an internal arrest warrant and a European arrest warrant against Racman, which was entered in the Schengen information system.

The warrants were followed by Interpol issuing yesterday a red notice, a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest Racman.

According to the media, the suspects from the prostitution ring are accused of exploiting a total of 413 girls, mostly from Romania, Ukraine, Albania and the former Yugoslavia, for prostitution in the Marina Sauna Club near Nova Gorica.

Between August 2014 and January this year around 150,000 men visited the club, paying an entrance fee of 60 to 85 euros. A total of EUR 21 million in illegal gains are believed to have been made in the process.

The prosecution claims the ring was led by entrepreneurs Jože Kojc, Dejan Šurbek and Racman, who jointly own the Marina Sauna Club. Šurbek and Racman have been in custody since 23 January, while Racman is still at large.

The media reported that Racman, who has officially been living in Slovakia since 2013, is away on business in Canada.

Slovenia is looking for another six persons through Interpol.

Other stories on this case can be found here, while Interpol's related page is here

24 Jul 2019, 12:06 PM

STA, 24 July 2019 - The Specialised State Prosecution has filed an indictment against 18 persons in connection with a prostitution ring that was operating near Nova Gorica and was cracked by police in January. The prime suspect is said to be businessmen Sergej Racman, the former owner of the cinema chain operator Kolosej.

 

The indictment comes after the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said in January it completed a four-year investigation into prostitution, human trafficking and drug abuse in the areas of Nova Gorica and Maribor.

According to Wednesday's report by the newspaper Večer, 413 girls, mostly from Romania, Ukraine, Albania and the former Yugoslavia, had been abused for prostitution in the Marina Sauna Club near Nova Gorica.

Between August 2014 and January this year around 150,000 men visited the club, paying an entrance fee of 60 to 85 euros. A total of EUR 21 million in illegal gains are believed to have made in the process.

The prosecution claims the ring was led by entrepreneurs Jože Kojc, Dejan Šurbek and Racman, with the latter still being at large despite having a detention warrant issued against him.

Siol.net reported that Racman is unofficially away on business abroad. He has officially been living in Slovakia since 2013. An international arrest warrant has not yet been issued.

Prostitution was decriminalised in Slovenia 2003, but only for those providing the services voluntarily, without procurement and coercion.

NBI deputy director David Antolovič told the press in January that "the suspects controlled the victims at all times and set the price of their sexual services". If they failed to obey, they were barred from the premises, he said.

The abuse of prostitution carries a prison sentence of three to 15 years, human trafficking three to 12 years and drug trafficking one to 10 years.

Other stories on this case can be found here

26 Jan 2019, 11:59 AM

STA, 25 January 2019 - The prostitution ring dismantled by Slovenian police two days ago was led by two Slovenian citizens and is estimated to have made at least EUR 14m from the illegal business, a police official said on Friday.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has led the investigation into prostitution, human trafficking and drug abuse from September 2014 in the areas of Nova Gorica, west, and Maribor, north-east, NBI deputy director David Antolovič said at a news conference in Ljubljana.

At least 300 women have been offering sexual services since then in a hotel with a spa in the area of Nova Gorica. They all came from abroad, mostly from Romania, Ukraine, Albania and the area of the former Yugoslavia.

The police investigation has found that the ring with at least 14 identified members was led by a 50-year-old and a 35-year-old from the area of Maribor. "The ring was hierarchically organised, with roles being clearly assigned," said Antolovič.

The suspects had renovated a building near Nova Gorica, which was advertised as a sauna, spa and wellness with a touch of eroticism, which was a cover for abusing women for prostitution under a set of strictly defined rules.

Only men were allowed to enter the hotel, for which they were charged an entrance fee of 60 to 85 euro. Women could be there only as prostitutes; to get to the hotel, they had to book an appointment online, and pay an entrance fee of 70 euro.

"The suspects controlled the victims all the time and set the price of their sexual services," said Antolovič, noting the victims were "totally subdued".

If they failed to obey, they were barred from the premises, he said adding they had opted for prostitution convinced this was the only way in which they could make a living.

Eight suspects were detained on Wednesday, with six remaining in custody, including the ring leader. They were to be brought before an investigating judge today.

They are suspected of eleven counts of abuse of prostitution, human trafficking, and illegal production and sale of drugs.

Under Slovenia's penal code, abuse of prostitution is a crime which carries a prison sentence of three to 15 years, human trafficking three to twelve years, and drug production and sale from one to ten years.

According to Antolovič, "the investigation was very demanding, because the suspects were very well organised and consistent in hiding the abuse".

"It was difficult to gather evidence because they had invested a lot of effort and money into trying to show they were engaged in a legal business."

This is one of the largest cases of prostitution ever discovered in Slovenia, where prostitution is decriminalised.

However, it is a crime to exploit or abuse sex workers, which is often linked to human trafficking.

Slovenia is a destination country in human trafficking, and the victims are most often exploited at night clubs or apartments rented by criminal rings.

25 Jan 2019, 12:50 PM

STA, 24 January 2019 - Several people were arrested on Wednesday as police busted a well-organised prostitution ring as part of a search in a club in Nova Gorica, western Slovenia, the news portal 24ur.com reported. The suspects have made more than EUR 10m from the illegal business, the portal says, citing an unofficial source.

 

Drago Menegalija, the spokesperson for Slovenian criminal police, told the portal that the sting had been carried out by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

The police later reported that investigation was under way against 19 citizens of Slovenia and Romania and one company over the abuse of prostitution, exploitation and production and sale of drugs.

According to NBI deputy director David Antolovič, abuse of prostitution is the focus of the main part of the investigation.

Sex work is decriminalised in Slovenia, but not under conditions of exploitation or abuse

The investigation has established that a well-organised ring organised exploitation of prostitution under the pretext of running hotel, spa and massage business in a company incorporated especially for the purpose.

The ring is suspected to have exploited more than 100 women since August 2014, making several million euro in the process, Antolovič said.

The investigation continues with examination and analysis of the objects seized and interviews of the suspects.

Asked about indications of money laundering, Antolovič said that any investigation into acts generating proceeds would also look into whether part of them may have been invested into various activities or if attempts have been made to conceal their origin in any other way.

According to 24ur.com, the owners as well as employees of the club, which is said to have been engaged in prostitution for several years, are among the suspects.

The NBI, which investigates the gravest crimes, also carried out some house searches in the area of Maribor, north-east.

It is one of the largest cases of prostitution in Slovenia ever, said the police, which have conducted five personal searches, 10 vehicles searches, seven house searches and 16 searches of business premises.

Prostitution is decriminalised in Slovenia, which means those who practice it do not commit any crime. However, when sex workers are exploited or abused, this is crime, often linked to human trafficking.

Slovenia is a destination country in human trafficking, and the victims are most often exploited at night clubs or apartments rented by criminal rings, crime inspector Damijan Roškarič said.

He said that the perpetrators were most often Slovenian citizens, while the victims most often came from Serbia and Ukraine.

30 Dec 2018, 12:00 PM

STA, 29 December 2018 - Three years after house searches at three night clubs in Nova Gorica and Sežana, eight defendants were handed down prison sentences for coercing women into prostitution, the newspaper Primorske Novice reported on Saturday.

The sentences, pronounced by the Koper District Court on Friday, range from three and a half years in prison to suspended sentences, but are not final yet.

The court found the defendants guilty of abusing at least ten women, mostly from Ukraine, for prostitution, whereas the prosecution spoke of 70.

Iryna Uršič as ring leader was sentenced to three and a half years in prison, her aides Iryna Ahaponova and Maria Fedotova to two years and to 18 months in prison, respectively.

Uršič and Fedotova had been in detention until March 2017, when the trial started.

The other five defendants, of whom two men, received suspended sentences.

Uršič will also have to pay a fine of 8,850 euros and return almost 81,000 euros in illegal gain, whereas the company Euromega was fined almost 60,000 euros.

The defendants can lodge an appeal against the sentences, with Uršič announcing it even before the verdicts were delivered.

In May 2016, the Specialised Prosecution Office filed changes of human trafficking against 12 persons and two companies, but later changed them to the crime of abuse for the purpose of prostitution, dropping them against two suspects, while one died and one pleaded guilty.

Related: Report Finds Some Progress on Human Trafficking in Slovenia

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