Exploitation of criminal activities

According to the Directive 2011/36/EU, “the expression ‘exploitation of criminal activities’ should be understood as the exploitation of a person to commit, inter alia, pick-pocketing, shop-lifting, drug trafficking and other similar activities which are subject to penalties and imply financial gain.”[1]

In the cases of exploitation of criminal activities, the recruiters target persons who have physically the capacity of committing crimes like pick-pocketing, shop lifting or, generally speaking, petty crimes. As in the cases of exploitation of begging, also in these cases, family ties have strong roles to play. The activities are conducted rather within “clans” than within “organised criminal groups”. 

The benefit on behalf of the exploiters in such cases, besides the psychological ties which can be successfully used also in this form of exploitation, is the existence of provable criminal activities committed by the victims. By means of such self-made evidence traffickers tend to threaten the victims with handing in the evidence against them to the competent authorities in case the orders are not obeyed. While in cases of “petty crimes” such threats are strong, in cases of serious crimes, like drug trafficking, the threats are really frightful. As a common principle, traffickers tend, at the beginning of the exploitation phase, to force the victims into committing petty crimes and then, as they keep collecting more and more evidence and as the victim is getting more and more knowledge on how to commit crimes without being caught, the traffickers start to force them into serious crimes.

In order to avoid situations in which persons who were forced into committing criminal activities, therefore victims of human trafficking, were punished for the crimes committed, therefore for crimes done without intention, the EU Directive adopted also by Germany has introduced under Article 8 a “Non-prosecution or non-application of penalties to the victim” clause, stating the fact that  “Member States shall, in accordance with the basic principles of their legal systems, take the necessary measures to ensure that competent national authorities are entitled not to prosecute or impose penalties on victims of trafficking in human beings for their involvement in criminal activities which they have been compelled to commit as a direct consequence of being subjected to any of the acts referred to in Article 2.”


[1] DIRECTIVE 2011/36/EU OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 5 April 2011 on Preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims, and replacing Council Framework Decision 2002/629/JHA,