Police in Spain have rescued 16 Nigerian women who were trafficked into the country before being forced into prostitution.
In a Europol-backed operation, officers from Spanish national police arrested 11 members of a suspected organised crime network who made the women sell their bodies after persuading them to come to Spain with the promise of a better life.
The women were handed over to a “madam” in the city of Zaragoza having been smuggled into Spain via Libya and Italy.
Once they arrived in the country, they were told they would have work as prostitutes to pay off debts they had built up with the people smugglers who had arranged their travel.
Before leaving Nigeria, the women were put though ritualistic “juju” ceremonies to make them believe they would suffer severe consequences such as death, illness or insanity if they disobeyed their captors, refused to sell their bodies or went to the police.
“Once in Spain, the women were forced to practice prostitution until they paid off their debt and lived under a voodoo-juju oath by which they promised to pay the debt incurred and not to denounce their exploiters,” Spanish police said in a statement.
Human traffickers regularly employ this tactic to control women from West Africa, often convincing them that breaking a juju oath could result in them or members of their families coming to serious harm.
In November 2014, a British court jailed a woman for eight years after hearing how she used the threat of a juju curse to force two vulnerable young Nigerian women into working as prostitutes in the UK.
Cardiff Crown Court was told that Lizzy Idahosa arranged for the women to be put through a juju ceremony before leaving their home country to travel to Britain to make them afraid of disobeying her.
Sentencing Idahosa, Judge Tom Crowther said: “You were the prime mover in this scheme. You targeted vulnerable young women and kept them in a kind of hell.
“You forced them to pay an arbitrary debt with their bodies day in day out. And you made significant sums from them. They lived under mortal terror of breaking these promises.”
It is believed thousands of Nigerian women have been trafficked into European countries to work as prostitutes after having been put thorough juju ceremonies before they travelled.
The rituals often involve taking body parts from victims such as pubic hair, fingernails and blood, and forcing them to swear an oath to powerful gods they are told will punish them severely if they break their word.
Speaking with Unicef in May last year, a young woman who was trafficked from Benin City in Nigeria to work as a prostitute in Italy said: “[A trafficker] took us to a place where they do juju… We had to swear to an old woman – a sorcerer – that we wouldn’t run.”
NGO Traffic warns of rise in international trafficking of glass eels
Wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic has warned of an increase in the international trafficking of glass eels as the new fishing season gets underway across Europe.
Urging law enforcement agencies across the continent to remain vigilant for wildlife smugglers involved in the illegal trade of eel species, the NGO noted that the European Eel is considered to be critically endangered on the IUCN Red List.
Regulators ended the international commercial eel trade to or from the EU back in 2010 after member states concluded it was too risky to allow it to continue, and imposed a zero-import/export policy that still remains in place today.
In a statement, Hiromi Shiraishi, Traffic’s eel trade expert, said: “Illegal trade in European Eels, particularly glass eels, is the most serious wildlife crime issue the EU currently faces
“Traffickers exploited the last fishing season as an opportunity to smuggle glass eels to lucrative Asian markets and while TRAFFIC applauds the professional and intelligence-led criminal investigations which helped to disrupt the organised criminal syndicates orchestrating the trafficking, Traffic urges relevant authorities to ensure they prevent further smuggling this season—European Eel populations simply cannot withstand the sustained illegal offtake.”
Earlier this month, Europol announced that police forces across Europe confiscated 5,789kgs of smuggled glass eels with an estimated value of €11.58 million ($12.6 million) during the 2018/19 fishing season.
The latest edition of Operation Lake, which was coordinated by Europol, Eurojust, Interpol and the EU Wildlife/CITES Enforcement Group, saw the detention of more than 150 suspected eel traffickers, and the reintroduction of all seized eels back into their natural habitat.
Huge quantities of European eels are smuggled out of EU member states every year by traffickers seeking to profit from demand for the animal in Asia, where its meat is considered a delicacy and domestic stocks are too low to meet high local demand.
At the end of October, the AFP news agency reported that two Chinese nationals had each been handed 10-month jail terms and slapped with fines of €7,000 by a court in France after being convicted of attempting to smuggle 60kgs of live baby eels in their luggage onto a flight to China.
The man and woman were stopped by customs officers at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport and were found to be in possession of the eels, which were contained in plastic bags filled with water inside four suitcases.
Woman carrying cannabis bricks in bogus baby belly arrested by Argentine police
Law enforcement officers in Argentina have arrested a woman close to the South American country’s border with Chile for attempting to smuggle cannabis concealed inside a fake baby bump.
The woman was searched after police discovered that her travelling companion was in possession of a smaller quantity of cannabis while the pair were on a long-distance coach journey from the city of Mendoza to Caleta Olivia in province of Santa Cruz.
After stopping the pair at a police checkpoint in Valle de Uco close to Mendoza, police found that the woman had hidden 15 packages of cannabis in her bogus baby bump.
The man with whom she was travelling was discovered to be in possession of two packages of the drug in his hand luggage.
Police stopped the pair while conducting routine checks on passengers using the coach route.
In total, the woman and the man were found to be carrying in excess of 4.5kgs of cannabis.
The improvised fake pregnancy bump was held together with a starch-based paste and secured to the woman’s stomach to make it appear as though she was with child.
Posting a picture of the fake baby belly on Twitter, Argentine security minister Patricia Bullrich told her followers: “She made a belly with glue, and hid 15 packages of marijuana inside it while pretending to be pregnant and attempted to move it from Mendoza to Santa Cruz .
“Police arrested the false pregnant woman and her accomplice, preventing her from trafficking the drugs she was carrying.”
In a statement, Argentine police said: “While carrying out control checks, officers stopped a group travelling from Mendoza to Caleta Olivia.
“During the inspection, police observed that a passenger was carrying a black bag that contained two brick-like packages.
“Continuing with their inspection, officers came across a young woman who had a lump in her belly, pretending to be pregnant.
“The two passengers were asked to get off the bus and were later arrested.”
In September 2013, the BBC reported that police in Colombia had arrested a Canadian woman when she attempted to board a flight to Toronto while wearing a fake baby belly that was filled with cocaine.
Police said the woman was searched after she became agitated when asked by a customs officer how far along she was with her pregnancy.
She was found be carrying two sealed bags that contained 2kgs of cocaine.
Lithuanian and Spanish police smash violent sex trafficking gang that forced scores of women to work as prostitutes
A joint operation carried out by law enforcement agencies from Lithuania and Spain has resulted in the break-up of an organised crime network that trafficked women for the purposes of prostitution.
In a day of action coordinated by investigators from both countries, and supported by Europol and Eurojust, 50 searches were conducted at several locations across the two nations, resulting in the seizure of a quantity of cash, drugs, counterfeit documents, weapons and ammunition.
The operation also saw the detention of two leaders of the criminal network in Spain, the arrest of 13 suspected members of the gang in Lithuania, and the identification of 118 suspected trafficking victims from a number of countries including Ukraine and Belarus.
In a statement, Lietuvos Policija said the effort was the result of a two-year investigation into the illegal activities of the trafficking network, which is said to have used extreme violence to force victims to work as prostitutes in Lithuania.
Those arrested are said to have previously been convicted of a range of offences, including robbery, human trafficking, profiting from prostitution, and criminal damage.
All of those held, who were taken into custody where they are currently awaiting trail, have had their assets temporarily frozen.
“Europol supported the investigation by providing coordination and analytical support since the early stages of the joint investigation in 2018,” Europol said.
“Europol supported the action day by providing on-the-spot technical and analytical support in Lithuania and Spain, and by activating the virtual command post to speed up operational information exchange.
“Europol also deployed experts to Lithuania to cross-check operational information in real-time against Europol’s databases.”
Last week, four members of an eastern European sex trafficking gang were jailed for a total of over 36 years for smuggling Slovakian women to Scotland and forcing them into sham marriages, slavery or prostitution.
Vojtech Gombar, Anil Wagle, Jana Sandorova and Ratislav Adam were convicted in October of what the High Court in Edinburgh was told were “utterly repugnant” crimes.
Back in February, a pair of brothers from Romania who trafficked women into Spain before forcing them to work as prostitutes were handed jail terms totalling 108 years.
A Spanish court heard Cristian and Sebastián Sandulache, who were said to have made as much as €11,000 ($12,096) a night by forcing their victims to sell sex, inserted metal balls into their penises in order to cause maximum pain to their rape victims.
- NGO Traffic warns of rise in international trafficking of glass eels
- Woman carrying cannabis bricks in bogus baby belly arrested by Argentine police
- Lithuanian and Spanish police smash violent sex trafficking gang that forced scores of women to work as prostitutes
- Dutch trucker charged with drug trafficking after UK customs find huge haul of cocaine wrapped in frozen meat
- Misery, not hedonism, appears to be driving increased drug use among Gen Xers and Boomers
9 February 2018
9 February 2018
8 February 2018
28 November 2017
28 November 2017
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