10:14 GMT24 September 2020
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    For several years, Vienna-based investigative journalist Manuel Mittas has been investigating crimes involving illegal prostitution, human trafficking and abuse. He recently interviewed a man called Thomas (name changed), whose father was involved in human trafficking.

    For many years, Austrian journalist and video reporter Manuel Mittas has been investigating crimes in red light districts, including cases of violence and abuse. He even managed to secretly infiltrate the sex services and porn industry to find out about illegal activities there. For several years now, Mittas has been collaborating with writer and documentary filmmaker Guido Grandt, who shot the “Höllenleben” documentary in 2001, where he interviewed numerous sexual violence victims. The documentary was broadcast by the ARD TV channel.

    In the past, Mittas has also worked with ORF, Servus TV, ATV, as well as with the Austrian branch of the ProSieben/Sat. 1 and Puls4. He now runs several blogs and YouTube channels, where he raises important social, political, economic and cultural issues, including cases of human abuse, as well as analyses the measures taken to combat the coronavirus by German and Austrian authorities. One of his channels published an interview with the son of a Polish human trafficker.

    Thanks to his connections, the journalist managed to speak to Thomas a few weeks ago. Thomas is a Polish citizen, but has been living in Germany since 1988; he is fluent in German. He himself admitted to being the “son of a human trafficker.” Mittas has provided Sputnik with more details about this truly terrifying story.

    "While investigating cases of abuse and crimes related to pedophilia (some of the most disgusting crimes in my opinion), I’ve managed to establish some contacts. Someone advised me to contact Thomas. He is about 40 and is from Poland. That’s all I can say about it," Mittas said.

    In an online interview, Thomas said that his father had worked for the mafia and other criminal groups for many years, transporting young women from Eastern European countries to Western Europe (including Germany and Austria); those women had been forced to prostitute themselves. Mittas conducted a large investigation and succeeded in asking for tougher legislation against the offenders.

    "I will never forget the day I found out about it," Thomas said. "We lived in Germany, I was 14. My father took me to the house of his friend, who was married to a very young girl."

    After a while, Thomas’s family was driving along the highway; they came to a recreation area not far from the Polish border. Nobody, except Thomas’s father, was aware of anything.

    "All of a sudden some people got into the car: my father, my mother, my brother, some stranger and some very young (possibly underage) prostitute. (...) When we were getting closer to the border, the girl had to get into the trunk. My mother started to cry. After that, my father and the stranger started beating my mother. The girl was already in the trunk," Thomas said with tears in his eyes. Moreover, according to Thomas, his father "threatened to kill the entire family if my mother didn’t calm down; he had a gun in his hand."

    Thus, Thomas thinks his father was involved in human trafficking. He was a truck driver; that was a good cover for his criminal activities. “The accused was also involved in car thefts and cigarette smuggling,” Mittas added. “[Smuggling] of everything possible. People too, of course.”

    However, Thomas’s father "was not the leader, as I understood," the journalist said.

    "He ran errands and the lowest link of that network. He was in charge of transportation and logistics. But it was not only women aged 20-25 that Thomas’s father transported." According to Mittas, Thomas didn’t rule out that there were younger girls as well.

    "My father abused our family in every way"

    "Thomas and his whole family suffered greatly from his father’s actions," Mittas said. In particular, Thomas’s father threatened him with "beating and a gun," he also threatened to "set" his "dubious business partners and clients" on Thomas. "One of them beat me with three different belts," Thomas admitted.

    Thomas father’s routes “have always been the same: Russia, Lithuania, Poland. There, with the assistance of all kinds of intermediaries, pimps, and maybe his own customers, he took young girls. Sometimes (Thomas’s) family was with him, because a car full of people didn’t attract much attention when crossing the border, especially in the late 1980s, when the whole thing was just starting and the borders weren’t open as they are now.” Then Thomas’s father “went to the recreation areas on the highway, and the girls had to get into the trunk.”

    Thomas’s father repeatedly abused his own family. At first, Thomas’s mother didn’t understand what was going on. "You can’t blame her for not opposing this. According to Thomas, his mother faced threats from his father as well," Mittas said.

    After crossing the border, young women were taken to brothels, set up in apartments.

    "They were forced to engage in illegal prostitution. Of course, many of them had been promised something completely different, for example, a job as a waitress or a model, or some other dream job."

    But they were in for a great disappointment in the West: "They had their documents taken away and were taken to brothels under the threat of violence," Mittas added.

    Human trafficking, car thefts, cigarette smuggling

    "I know that Thomas’s father was in pre-trial detention, but only on suspicion of car thefts. But I’m still investigating; I will try to find out if the justice authorities have something against human traffickers," Mittas said when asked whether criminal cases have been initiated against traffickers.

    Today, Bulgaria and Romania are among the countries “from where many young girls come to the West and are forced to engage in prostitution. Unfortunately, this is still a thing today.” When asked about the arrests related to these crimes,  Mittas said that "something is happening". A small group has recently been found in Austria. However, as for such cases, I’m always skeptical and don’t hope it will be possible to catch a truly "big fish," he admitted.

    In one of his books, former commissioner Paulus spoke about the criminal police’s “great success” in Ukraine; “in the past, with the help of their German, Austrian and Swiss colleagues, they have repeatedly managed to find abducted Ukrainian women in Western European brothels and break them free from their exploiters. In Ukraine, persons involved in human trafficking and pimping face (...) hefty fines.”

    Childhood traumas: how past experiences affected Thomas

    Mittas admitted that he spent much time “persuading” Thomas to talk to him. “I have repeatedly talked to active or passive victims of such acts, and, although generalizations are inappropriate here, I can say that many of them suffer from bipolar disorders and multiple personality disorder. Today they agree to talk to you, and tomorrow they refuse. It was a challenge for me to try to persuade Thomas to talk. He agreed only because I guaranteed him all kinds of protection. After all, he is afraid that someone will go after him.”

    Moreover, Thomas suffers from childhood psychological traumas, in particular, from the Stockholm syndrome, which is characterised by the victim’s dependence on their tormentor. Psychologists and trauma therapists say this is a fairly typical example of domestic violence effects.

    “At some point, he had to end it, because otherwise he would suffer more and more,” Mittas said. According to Thomas, he has managed to cope with the effects of his traumas by studying metaphysical literature, particularly Kabbalah, one of the Jewish Holy Scriptures.

    “Thomas would love to do trauma and hypnotherapy,” the journalist added. He believes this would be “the only way to sort out his memories."

    Plans for children trafficking investigation

    Together with his team, the Vienna-based journalist is next planning a trip to Slovakia, where he will work undercover to investigate the activities of “both terrible and absurd” structures involved in child trafficking. He knows of these cases from his past trips to areas bordering Slovakia.

    "I have been planning this trip for a long time, but the pandemic took its toll. I’ve already done all the necessary preparations; I’ve talked to the Slovak authorities, the local police and other organizations. You need to have sharp instincts to understand which organization is involved in helping children, and which you should look out for," Mittas said, adding that he had repeatedly heard about systematic violence against minors on the part Austrian charitable organizations employees, in particular rape cases.
    Poland, Europe, Sex Trafficking, human trafficking
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