Crime gang tied to Luxembourg construction sector
Police in Luxembourg last week swooped in on two sites during raids on a criminal gang that cheated imported Eastern European construction workers out of decent compensation for their labours, the EU's law enforcement agency said on Tuesday.
Police searched the Luxembourg locations without making any arrests, Europol said. Authorities also searched 22 sites in Belgium and 10 in Italy. Ten suspects were arrested in Belgium and two in Italy, Europol said.
"The criminal organisation, managed by a single Italian family, had several companies in Italy, Romania and Slovakia which recruited workers locally," the agency said in a statement. The workers were sent to construction jobs mainly in Luxembourg and Belgium, where they worked for subcontractors, Europol said.
The workers laboured in poor conditions that cheated legal limits on working hours per day and per week and requiring annual leave, the police agency said. The recruits were often paid less than legally required minimum salaries, Europol said.
The scheme was estimated to generate €20 million for the criminals, authorities said. Police said they seized at least €3.5 million worth of expensive cars, real estate, cash and funds in 350 bank accounts. Another €10.6 million was frozen in 16 bank accounts in Italy, Europol said.
Shortages of labour along with other inputs like steel, glass and wood have this year slowed construction projects that restarted almost in unison as Covid-19 vaccines made the workplace less risky. The global shortage in construction materials meant several high-profile projects such as the EU Commission building and three secondary schools would be delayed.
Some companies have looked far and wide for workers. One company was fined €7,500 and a second €2,500 by Luxembourg's labour inspectorate this summer for employing non-EU workers without a residence permit. Some building companies were ordered to stop working or paid thousands of euros in fines for pushing workers to skip their annual summer leave or sites were unsafe.