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Key witness in human trafficking case goes missing

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A female witness who was to have an important role in an upcoming trial involving trafficking in humans has gone missing, reported the Helsinki Criminal Police on Monday.
      Estonian Anne Viilip, aged 29, has been missing for ten days, and neither her relatives in Estonia nor the Finnish authorities know her present whereabouts.
      Anne Viilip was last seen entering a car - possibly a taxi - outside Club Alcatraz in downtown Helsinki early on Friday morning on June 9th. Male voices were heard from inside the car. Viilip had been spending the night in the club with her lady friends.
According to the criminal police, it is possible that there is a link between her disappearance and the upcoming trial. The woman is one of the plaintiffs - or victims - in the case, and the police say that her testimony would be important.
      "It is hard evidence against certain suspects", notes Detective Chief Inspector Seppo Sillanpää. He also says that it is unusual that a witness goes missing just before a major trial.
It is obvious that Viilip has not vanished on her own initiative, as she has had a habit of contacting her family almost every day. Neither does she have a lot of money with her. Moreover, she is reported not to have left the country - at least not using her own name.
      The police have also tried to trace her mobile phone usage - without success so far.
During the preliminary investigations, Viilip did not express any concern for her safety, says Sillanpää, describing her as a courageous woman.
      In addition to Anne Viilip, 14 other women will be testifying in the court case, which is to open in Helsinki next week. The police have not contacted the other women in connection with Viilip's disappearance.
      The trial against eight persons charged with aggravated human trafficking is to open in the Helsinki District Court next Tuesday. The suspects have been remanded in custody, and they are kept separate from each other. They have not been questioned about the disappearance.
      Reportedly, one of the women brought from Estonia into Finland for the purpose of prostitution was mentally disabled. Moreover, she was pimped to dozens of customers. According to the authorities, Anne Viilip is not this woman.
Anne Viilip is about 160 cm tall and has long black hair, and she is of normal build. One of her front teeth is broken.
      She was last seen wearing black jeans, a blue top, a dark blouse, and a pair of canvas boots with high heels.
      The Helsinki Criminal Police requests any information concerning the missing Anne Viilip on the numbers (09) 189 5464 or (09) 189 4002.

  Helsinki Police Department

Helsingin Sanomat

  20.6.2006 - TODAY
 Key witness in human trafficking case goes missing

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