43 cabins function at Erzsébet's workplace. She calls the tiny rooms cabins; they are equipped with glass windows overlooking the street so that passers-by can clearly see the half- or fully naked women offering their services. When the curtains are drawn on the window, it means that the sex worker is with a client. Erzsébet's company also lets out apartments, primarily to the women working in the shop windows and to labourers who come to the city for seasonal jobs. The red light district takes up an entire street; a large number of the prostitutes and the staff (cleaners, security guards) are Hungarian.
In Germany, every citizen of the EU above the age of 18 can legally work as a sex worker, and running red light districts under controlled conditions is also legal. Erzsébet has been working for this firm as an organiser and contact person for four years, and more than forty prostitutes work for her.
“I have no secrets, I pursue my job legally. My job is to organise the work of the red light district, I handle telephone calls, arrange the girls' contracts, I help them with everything if they don't speak German, I collect the rent, organise the cleaning,” tells Erzsébet. In 2012, she registered a Hungarian-language web page through a Hungarian hosting service provider, where she gives information to the interested sex workers and to the clients, and where photos of the place can also be seen. As it turns out from the interrogation records of several prostitutes working for her, Erzsébet helps Hungarian women get to Germany, arranges cars for those arriving by plane to pick them up at the airport, and informs those who go there by bus about the private bus service (unrelated to Erzsébet's business) that practically operates scheduled rides to take Hungarian sex workers from one of Budapest's railway stations to the West.
Forbidden in Hungary, allowed in Germany
Erzsébet runs the red light district together with her two Dutch bosses, and owing to the above listed acts her job exhausts the fact called pandering in the Hungarian Criminal Code. Pandering means that someone recruits persons (for business purposes) to supply sexual services to someone else for financial gain. Such a crime does not exist in Germany.
The Hungarian National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has been conducting an investigation against Erzsebet, therefore she has not left the city where she lives since December, as she is afraid to be apprehended as soon as she steps out of the place. Following her German solicitor's advice, she did not travel to Hungary in mid November either when, referring to the substantiated suspicion of professional pandering the NBI's subdivision against human trafficking summoned her. Since she did not show up, on 23rd December, in compliance with the Hungarian and international law, the European international arrest warrant was issued for her, says Erzsébet. Yet, she is at large and has been doing her job ever since.
Erzsébet complains that apart from the summon she did not get any information about her case from the Hungarian authorities. However, according to legal experts we asked about the case, her rights have to be ensured during the procedure, and this entails that she should receive information about the rights she is entitled to in connection with the arrest warrant and the prosecution, because theDirective 2012/13/EU on the right to information in criminal proceedings, adopted by the European Parliament and the Council of European Union, also applies to persons subject to a European arrest warrant. Erzsébet says, German city police claim that Hungarian detectives have never contacted them at all, and no recital has ever been sent to them from Hungary. Thus, German authorities cannot yet understand why they should arrest an employee whose job is, although morally questionable, legal.
The woman sent a letter by her German solicitor to the local Public Prosecutor and the Senate, in which she details her case and lodges an appeal for redress referring to that the work she does is legal. She does not accept the accusation of the Hungarian investigating authorities.
A complicated criminal case
According to expert lawyers on the field of international criminal proceedings, the 3rd paragraph of the Hungarian Criminal Code states that if a deed is classified as criminal act in Hungarian law, then, even if a person of Hungarian nationality commits it abroad, they are liable, even though the given act is legal in the given foreign country.
(A similar example is that if a Hungarian person works at a legal coffee shop in the Netherlands, theoretically they can also be held liable.) The international legal practice, however, is that the Hungarian person committing the criminal offence is handed over to Hungary according to the principle of dual criminality if the given act is considered to be a crime in both Hungarian law and the legislation of the country where the act is committed. And in Germany, pandering is no crime.
According to Eszter Kirs international lawyer, the European Council Framework Decision on the European arrest warrant lists exemptions, where “the principle of dual criminality has to be disregarded if the maximum of the penalty in the member state issuing the warrant is at least three years of imprisonment, on the other hand, it names concrete acts of lawbreaking where the principle should not be applied. One among them is the sexual exploitation of children. I suppose, the Hungarian Investigating Authorities must have issued the arrest warrant for the woman on this suspicion,” says the lawyer. If the conditions of handing over apply as stated by the Framework Decision, Germany cannot refuse to hand Erzsébet over to Hungary.
We also asked the National Bureau of Investigation about Erzsébet's case but received the answer that they are not giving out any information for reasons of data protection. So, it cannot be known what concrete criminal acts the woman is suspected of committing.