â€¢ Rescue 39 victims of sex exploitation in Spain
By Alex Enumah in Abuja
Operatives of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), National Crime Agency (NCA) of the British Government and Guardia Civil, the Spanish Law Enforcement Agency have in a joint operation disrupted activities of a Nigerian organised crime gang, Eiye Confraternity in Spain. rescuing 39 women victims of sexual exploitation in the process.
The international investigation into the organised criminal network Â began when a victim made a report to the Spanish authorities, detailing how she arrived in Spain along with a number of other girls
According to a statement by NAPTIP, the victims, all Nigerian nationals, and many under the age of 18, are believed to have undergone â€˜Voodoo-Jujuâ€™ rituals in Nigeria to coerce them if they did not comply with orders given by the gang leaders.Â
NAPTIP s Head of Press and Public Relations, Josiah Emerole, who signed the statement said the victims were moved by boat to Libya and Italy, before arriving in Spain.
He said: â€œThe women were forced to live in cave-like houses, in unsafe and unsanitary conditions, unable to leave and sexually exploited for the sole purpose of financial gain for the gang leaders, with all money eventually ending up in their hands in Nigeria.
â€œThe money are said to be laundered through the honour-based Hawala system, popular with organised crime gangs. Investigators found the gang had numerous women under their control working as prostitutes to pay off their debts with Eiye Confraternity â€“ upwards of 30,000 euros each â€“ for the cost of moving the victims into Europe,â€ he said.
Â Speaking on how the suspects were caught, Emerole said the NCA officers worked with partners to develop intelligence on the network, including carrying out surveillance on those suspected to be involved, and working with NAPTIP colleagues to build up information about the scale of the abuse and exploitation.
â€œThe investigation was aided in Nigeria by NAPTIP investigators who are members of the British assisted Joint Border Task Force (JBTF) who travelled to Spain to participate and support the Guardia Civil and NCA during the arrest phases.Â
â€œA total of 89 people â€“ including the leader of the gang â€“ have been arrested on suspicion of association to criminal organisations, modern slavery and money laundering. Forty three remain on remand in prison in Spain, following raids at 41 addresses across the country in November last year.
â€œOn Â January 16, 2018 NCA officers also arrested an alleged Nigerian Madame living in Middleton, Greater Manchester, believed to be controlling some of the victims in Spain, and paying money to the Organised Criminal Gang (OCG) back in Nigeria. She remains in custody awaiting extradition to Spain where she faces prosecution,â€ the statement read in part.