A 22-year-old and her ex-boyfriend are accused of forcing an acquaintance into prostitution for two weeks, after which they stole her money.
It all happened in Vienna – The accusation that the prosecutor, Sonja Herbst, comes with against Daniela D. and Ahmed T. is really unpleasant: In February 2018, Daniela and Ahmed are said to have forced a 32-year-old to resort to prostitution while taking away the money she earned. The woman has just escaped from forced prostitution and was looking for shelter with the couple. Judge Daniel Schmitzberger has to clarify whether this accusation against the former couple is true.
He starts by sending the first defendant out of the hall and begins questioning the second defendant, Ahmed. The 28-year-old employee does not plead guilty and actually doesn’t even know how he got into the whole thing. He got to know and love his ex-gf, the 22-year-old first defendant, in a disco in 2017. Later, the Venezuelan woman started living in his small apartment.
Girlfriend asking for shelter for a fellow Venezuelan
According to Ahmed, a friend from Daniela’s home named Vanessa contacted her in February 2018 about finding shelter with them, T. did not mind. “Did you ask the woman for rent?” The judge asked as soon as he could. “No, not at first. She said she has no money. But then she went to Lugner City with Daniela and bought a lot of things. Certainly for 200 to 300 euros.” When Ahmed asked her to contribute to the housing costs, Vanessa refused. So, she moved out after ten to fourteen days.
Apparently, Ahmed T. did not speak to the woman directly. Because the Egyptian-born Austrian does not speak Spanish, in which the two women talked lively and a lot. His girlfriend D., in turn, could not speak neither German nor Arabic. They made do with a translation program and broken English. In fact, he did not talk to Vanessa at all.
“Didn’t want to continue with this shit”
“Did you know that Vanessa pursued prostitution during the time?” Judge Schmitzberger asks the second defendant. He says that he wasn’t aware of this, but at the same time he wasn’t there all the time because he was working. “Did your girlfriend tell you she was working as a sex-worker for money?” – “No, not exactly. Only later. She said the group behind her was stronger than her and would threaten her parents. I understood then that she didn’t want to continue with this shit.” T. sums up about a year in 2017/18 with the first defendant.
Daniela confirms Ahmed’s story when interrogated and says she was brought to Austria from Venezuela in 2017 under false promises. At that time, she had no other means than to work in a sex-club or something similar, so she had to pursue prostitution in one way or the other. She was allowed to keep part of the money and finally managed to break away from the group, against which separate proceedings were running.
First accused says she warned her friend
Vanessa already knew Daniela from a beauty contest in Venezuela. “She was my friend,” explains the heavily pregnant D. to the judge. And she should have known that D. was in Austria, because she called her. “She asked how my work is like. I said that it wasn’t such a good experience and that I had to prostitute myself,” the 22-year-old Venezuelan woman describes. “But she came afterwards anyway.” – “Can you explain how that happened if you already warned her?” Asks Schmitzberger. “I can’t really understand it. But I can imagine, because you don’t earn much in Venezuela.”
On February 8, 2018, Vanessa informed Daniela via WhatsApp that the police had been at the secret prostitute’s accommodation and that the group that had brought her to Austria sent her on the streets. After consulting with her friend, the second defendant, Vanessa then moved in with them.
30 percent from all her earnings
“She was afraid that she would run out of money and wanted to continue with prostitution,” claims Daniela, the first defendant. “I still had a number from Kontakt-Bazar and helped her with the organization.” – “What did you do there?”, asks the judge. “We both sent messages to customers and made appointments.” – “What did Vanessa use you for?” – “I had the phone and the registration at the Kontakt-Bazar was already paid for.” – “How much did you get for the organization?” – “30 percent.” – “Do you think that is appropriate?” – “At the time, it seemed appropriate to me. Registration alone costs from 150 to 200 Euros.”
In the almost two weeks of living together, there were a total of eight customers who paid 80 euros for half an hour and 150 euros for an hour with Vanessa, says the first defendant. Nothing ever happened in their own apartment, they would always drive to the hotel or the apartment of the client. Daniela admits that she also organized taxis for her compatriot, as she was the one to speak English better.
Job offer as a waitress?
Before Vanessa begins her questioning, the judge sends the two defendants out of the courtroom to avoid a possibility of fear on the witness’s part. When asked by Judge Schmitzberger, the 32-year-old describes how she came to Austria. “There was a job offer in Venezuela which said that I should be able to work as a waitress in a restaurant, in Vienna” she recalls. “When I arrived here in January 2018, I saw that that wasn’t the case,” she sums up.
Daniela had known Vanessa from the beauty contest, but had no contact with her before she crossed the Atlantic. Vanessa claims that she only found out in Vienna that D. also had to work for the group. After the raid, she searched and found D. on Instagram and told her about her situation. “I only had 1,700 euros and didn’t know where to go.”
The judge is taken aback. “You are in a foreign country, have just been released from forced prostitution and have 1,700 euros in cash? Why didn’t you go straight to the airport and buy a ticket back home?” – “I didn’t know this was possible. I also had a return ticket …” – “Then why didn’t you use it?” – “It was only valid for the end of March.”
Allegedly, Vanessa had to spend 60 euros rent per day
So, she came to the two accused’s apartment, but the recording by them shows a completely different story. “D. said I have to give T. 60 euros,” Vanessa claims. A day, and when Vanessa was worried about her savings, her friend told her this: “Then Daniela said that I just have to work!” The first defendant organized the meeting, with six to eight men she had to have sex every day, according to the witness.
Prosecutor Herbst is skeptical. “You said you had 1,700 euros? Why didn’t you just leave? Can’t you get a hotel room with that money?” She asks. “What would I have got out of it?” Is Vanessa’s counter-question. “You shouldn’t have prostituted yourself against your will?” The prosecutor points out as an option.
Vanessa also said that at the orders of the first defendant, Daniela, she had to do things that she did not want to do. The judge leafed through the files, among which was the WhatsApp chat with the first defendant, that the witness made available to the court.
The first defendant reportedly threatened Vanessa
In this context, it is also vague why the witness was so afraid of the ten years younger Daniela. Vanessa claims that D. threatened to harm her family in Venezuela.
The judge, continuing to leaf through the chat logs, noticed something else: “How did you communicate with Ms. D.?” He asks with interest the witness. “Only via Whatsapp”, Vanessa replies. “You presented me with messages from five days in February 2018. That’s not very much contact when you supposedly had to visit up to eight customers a day,” notes Judge Schmitzberger. In addition, there are no threats, except that the customer would be lost if she would arrive late, like half an hour late.
Why not report it to the police?
After almost two weeks, Vanessa claims to have moved out from the defendants’ apartment and given up prostitution. “Why not more?” The judge asked. “I was robbed, my passport and my money were gone, I went to the police and reported it. D. tried to contact me several times after, then she disappeared,” the witness claims. “And did you tell the police that you were being exploited?” – “No, I only reported the theft. I was afraid.” Vanessa answers “But why? You knew you were going to quit? Then what did you have to fear?”, Schmitzberger cannot understand. He doesn’t receive any answers.
In March 2018, Vanessa actually used her return ticket mentioned before. And came back to Vienna in May 2019. “Why is that?” Asks Judge Schmitzberger. “Because I was threatened in Venezuela.” – “From the same group of perpetrators who originally brought you to Vienna?” – The witness nods. “But why come back to Austria, where exactly part of this group of perpetrators is?” – “In Venezuela I went to the police and a women’s protection center, where I was ignored. Here, In Austria, or more exactly in Vienna I was able to speak to the authorities.”
Before the next question, the judge breathes in and out deep under his mouth and nose mask. “It wasn’t really in a hurry. You entered the country on May 21 2019 and filed a complaint against the two defendants on January 16, 2020. Why did you wait for half a year?” “Well, I was here for two months once, then I went to Caritas”, Vanessa evades the question. She applied for asylum in August. “When was the first questioning?” – “In December 2019.” – “And the report comes a month later,” the judge stated succinctly.
The public prosecutor became interested in something else: “What did you live on from May to August 2019?” – “I brought money with me from Venezuela.” – “What did you work there?” – “Advertising and Marketing” is Vanessa’s answer.
Vanessa’s legal representative sees no motive for lying. The Judge on the other hand…
At the end of the proceedings, Vanessa’s legal representative still, brazenly, demands 7,500 euros from the two accused, which is at least the amount of money they are said to have taken from the witness. In her closing remarks, she also tries to convince the judge that the charges are correct, since her client has no reason to incriminate the two accused. She was already a victim of the other group anyway.
However, Judge Schmitzberger sees it completely differently and approves with the two accused, D. and T. Their responsibility was “understandable and credible”, he explains his decision. Vanessa, on the other hand, “I just didn’t think it was credible”. The many contradictions that appeared while questioning her make him doubt that any coercion has been exercised against her. The public prosecutor agrees with this assessment and the acquittals are therefore final.