Trafficked by voodoo threats: one of the largest operations in Europe rescues 39 Nigerian women

22 March 2018
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The dismantled organised crime group was linked to the EIYE brotherhood which is known for being one of the most influential confraternities in Nigeria

The Spanish Guardia Civil in collaboration with the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) from Nigeria and the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA), dismantled a Nigerian organised crime group in one of the largest operations against Trafficking in Human Beings in Europe. This particular criminal network was active across multiple Member States.

Victims trafficked from Nigeria to Europe via Libya and Italy

The investigation began when one of the underage victims filed a complaint with the police; she reported she was coerced into trafficking by voodoo threats in Nigeria. The victims were transferred from Nigeria to Europe via Libya and Italy. Once in Spain, the women were kept in squalid conditions in cave houses in Almeria, where they were exploited in prostitution to pay off the EUR 30 000 debt they owed to the criminal organisation.

The highly active Nigerian criminal network was linked to the EIYE brotherhood, which is known for being one of the most influential confraternities in Nigeria. They operate in clandestine groups all over the world, funding the brotherhood in Nigeria through both licit and illicit activities, in some cases through organised crime and, in particular, trafficking human beings. One of the most important members of the organisation was a well-known DJ in Nigeria, who was arrested when he was returning from his country where he was recording a music video. His main role was to transfer the victims to Spain and organise sexual exploitation in several Spanish provinces. The crime ring transferred and laundered the money using the Hawala system.

89 arrests and 41 house searches

Police officers carried out 41 house searches in Alicante, Almeria, Barcelona, Cantabria, Madrid, Malaga, Murcia, Navarra, Seville, Toledo and Vizcaya in Spain and Manchester, UK. The bank accounts used by the organisation to launder more than EUR 300 000 from the illicit activity have been blocked. In total the operation resulted in 89 arrests and 39 victims were safeguarded.

Europol supported the investigation from the beginning by providing analytical support with cross-match reports, funding several operational meetings and deploying one specialist during the action phase in Spain.