Europe: People-Smuggling

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Though Communist countries do not ordinarily foster free enterprise, a shadowy group of Western entrepreneurs owes its profits to the existence of the Communist world. It is composed of the people-smugglers, who have made a mechanical — and ruthless — business out of springing refugees from Eastern Europe for a price. The price can be high, both in money (one ring charges $2,500 per escape) and, all too often, in human terms as well. While the smugglers often succeed in getting their clients to the West, their methods some times get other Westerners into serious difficulties.

Marion Blom, Lodi van Bennekom and Ruud Sternau, three young Netherlanders, found that out the hard way.

Marion, 24, is a leggy, attractive and not very bright brunette model. Lodi, 21, is a photographer, and his friend Ruud, also 21, is a graphic designer. Be cause all were naive enough to trust a 37-year-old tough from Amsterdam's red-light district named Jan Huivenaar, they ended up in Eastern European jails.

Strolling Through. Huivenaar, who is now in an Amsterdam prison, began his career peddling narcotics, abortion pills and second-hand cars in the Amsterdam underworld. Since 1962, he has concentrated on smuggling refugees out of Eastern Europe. At first he free lanced, hiding would-be escapees in se cret compartments of automobiles and bringing them across borders for $125 apiece. As Eastern European nations steadily tightened border-security mea sures, the old escape methods — cars or tunnels — became unreliable. So, as Huivenaar tells it, he linked up with a Berliner named Wolfgang Loeffler, 44, and their techniques soon became much more sophisticated. So did their prices.

Loeffler and Huivenaar sent their clients strolling straight through the check points, carrying someone else's passport.

It was Huivenaar's job to find Westerners who were willing, for the sake of money or sympathy, to let their documents be used in the scheme. In a typical operation, Huivenaar would promise a dupe in the West about $200 for falling in with his plans, then convoy him to a Communist capital such as War saw, Budapest or East Berlin. There the passport would be handed over to an accomplice. Photos would be substituted on it, and it would then be delivered to the prospective escapee.

The next step was for the recipient to vanish across the handiest frontier, while the Westerner waited 24 hours, then reported to his embassy or the local police that his passport had been "lost" or "stolen." Huivenaar promised his victims that temporary documents permitting them to go home would be is sued without question. But all too often the scenario would go awry.

When Marion tried the ruse last September, a Budapest cop told her sharply: "You know very well you never lost your passport. You had better tell us the truth—we know the game pretty well." Marion confessed. Huivenaar had hired her in Amsterdam, she said. Then Loeffler had met her by appointment in Vienna's Hotel Wienzeile, given her $20 to enjoy herself in Budapest for a day, and told her where to meet the East German girl who was to use her passport. The girl escaped safely, but Marion drew a six-month prison term. She was lucky, however: on appeal, her term was cut to three months, after the court learned that Huivenaar and a Dutch accomplice had been arrested in The Netherlands.

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