NAPTIP disclosed yesterday that the operation was conducted jointly with the operatives of the National Crime Agency, NCA, of the British Government and Guardia Civil, the Spanish Law Enforcement Agency, and France.
A statement signed by the head, Press and Public Relations of the agency, Josiah Emerole, revealed that the women were forced to live in cave-like houses, in unsafe and unsanitary conditions, unable to leave.
It added that the victims were sexually exploited for the sole purpose of financial gain for the gang leaders, with all money eventually ending up in their hands in Nigeria.
Part of the statement read, “The victims, all Nigerian nationals and many under the age of 18, are believed to have undergone ‘Voodoo-Juju’ rituals in Nigeria to coerce them if they did not comply with orders given by the gang leaders. They were then moved by boat to Libya and Italy, before arriving in Spain”.
NAPTIP stated that the international investigation into the organised criminal network began when a victim made a report to the Spanish authorities, detailing how she arrived in Spain along with a number of other girls.
Money from the trafficking, according to the agency, is 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 – upwards of 30,000 euros each – for the cost of moving the victims into Europe”, the agency added.
It stated that 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.
“The 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,” it further noted.
Josiah said, “A total of 89 people – including the leader of the gang had 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”.
NCA officers had on January 16 2018, 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 is said to be presently in custody awaiting extradition to Spain where she faces prosecution.