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Roma case Couple acquitted of human trafficking

A woman begs for coins in the French-speaking part of Switzerland.

(Keystone)

Switzerland’s Federal Supreme Court has acquitted a Romanian couple accused of trafficking Roma people who ended up begging and involved in prostitution in Geneva. The couple will receive over CHF60,000 ($60,500) in damages.

Switzerland’s highest court has rejected an appeal from the Geneva Public Prosecutor’s Office. The prosecution had demanded that the Romanian entrepreneur and his wife be sentenced to suspended prison sentences for violations of the federal law on foreigners.

On several occasions, the couple had brought people of Roma origin to Geneva. However, the people were too poor to pay the price of the trip: €120 (CHF128). So the couple lent them the money, also for basic supplies. But if the Roma migrants failed to repay them, the couple would pressure them by telephone, sometimes using threatening language.

The tour operator and his wife stood before the Geneva Criminal Court, which acquitted them of the charge of human trafficking. However, the court upheld the attempted coercion charge against the husband in December 2015.

In a ruling issued on Wednesday, the court confirmed this verdict and rejected an appeal from the Geneva Public Prosecutor's Office, which had requested that the pair also be convicted of offenses under the Federal Aliens Act.

As the Geneva prosecutors saw it, the couple knew that they were bringing compatriots to Switzerland. This constituted a threat to public order, since their clients would be forced to beg, to prostitute themselves or to steal in order to make a living. In the final instance, the federal court ruled that there had been no threat to public order.

Now Geneva is obliged to pay the incorrectly detained Romanian couple over CHF60,000 in compensation for moral damages.

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