The Attica Security Police human-trafficking department on Wednesday announced the dismantling of a ring that smuggled mentally handicapped people and small children from Bulgaria into Greece and forced them to work as beggars through beatings and violence.

Police arrested a 30-year-old man and a 38-year-old woman on Tuesday afternoon, charging them with luring people in dire economic straits and having serious mental disabilities into Greece using the promise of legal employment. Their victims were then taken to a small apartment in Athens near Vathis Square, where they lived in squalid conditions, while the couple lived next door in order to supervise and control them.

Using repeated beatings and threats, the couple forced their victims to beg in areas around Evangelismos Station and the Athens Concert Hall and then hand over any money they were given, providing them only with enough food to keep them alive.

During a raid on the apartment, police detained 14 people - including two children - and confiscated 2,395 euro, a notebook and a private car. The ring's victims, some of which did not even have clothes to wear, were taken to a non-governmental organisation to be examined by doctors and given support and clothing.

The couple arrested were charged based on recently amended laws that includes exploitation of begging into crimes of human trafficking and led before an Athens public prosecutor.