More than 900 German police, tax and customs investigators have raided Berlin’s biggest brothel, charging it is linked to the Hells Angels biker gang, and making six arrests.
They detained the two managers of the so-called nude sauna club Artemis and four “madames” in the raid, in which they encountered 117 sex workers and more than 100 clients, said police and prosecutors.
Prostitution is legal in Germany but police charge that the four-storey brothel complex constituted a “brutal and illegal” system that severely exploited dependent women.
Those detained in the raid were accused of tax fraud and withholding social security contributions, said police, who added that they were also investigating possible human trafficking by the club.
Most of the women were from eastern Europe, Russia and several countries in the Middle East.
Hells Angels bikers allegedly procured women for the club in return for favours including free admission, said state prosecutor Sjors Kampstra.
Police acted on information from a worker who had spoken out after fleeing her ex-partner, a Hells Angels biker, who she alleged had mistreated her.
Investigators focused on tax evasion charges “like they did with Al Capone”, said Berlin chief prosecutor Andreas Behm, referring to the charges that landed the infamous 1920s US-Italian mafia boss behind bars.
Police charge that while Artemis had officially engaged the women as “self-employed” sex workers, they were in fact regular employees with set work hours, price rates and instructions to perform specific sexual acts.
By withholding social security payments for them, the club had cheated the state out of at least €17.5m (£13.9m/US$17m), on top of its alleged tax evasion, said Michael Kulus from the Berlin customs office.
Police said they had confiscated €6.4m euros in cash, cars and property, also including 12 apartments and other premises in Berlin and nationwide.