The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons says it has disrupted activities of a crime gang, Eiye Confraternity, in Spain.
Josiah Emerole, Head Press and Public Relations of NAPTIP, said in a statement in Abuja on Friday that the feat was recorded in collaboration with the National Crime Agency of the British Government and Guardia Civil, Spanish Law Enforcement Agency.
Emerole disclosed that 39 women victims of sexual exploitation were rescued in the operation.
He explained 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.
According to him, 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 and comply with any order given by the gang leaders.
He said that they were then moved by boat to Libya and Italy, before arriving in Spain.
He said: “The women are 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.
“The money is said to be laundered through the honour-based Hawala system, popular with organised crime gangs.
“Investigators showed 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 NAPTIP spokesperson noted that NCA officers worked with partners to develop intelligence on the network, including carrying out surveillance on those suspected to be involved.
The partners also worked with NAPTIP colleagues to build up information about the scale of the abuse and exploitation.
He added that the investigation was by NAPTIP investigators who were members of the British assisted Joint Border Task Force who travelled to Spain to participate and support the Guardia Civil and NCA during the arrest phases.
Emerole quoted the Deputy Director, Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking of NCA, Tom Dowdall, saying “a total of 89 people including the leader of the gang have been arrested on suspicion of association to criminal organisations, modern slavery and money laundering.
He said: “43 remained in prison in Spain, following raids at 41 addresses across the country in November last year.
“On January 16, NCA officers also arrested an alleged Nigerian Madam living in Middleton, Greater Manchester, believed to be controlling some of the victims in Spain, and paying money to the Organised Criminal Gang back in Nigeria.
“She remains in custody awaiting extradition to Spain where she faces prosecution.’’
Emerole described Eiye Confraternity as highly organised crime gang, exploiting young women for lengthy periods of time, keeping them in horrendous conditions where they knew there would be no escape.
The spokesperson quoted the Director-General of NAPTIP, Julie Okah-Donli expressing satisfaction with the outcome of the joint operations.
She said that the outcome was in line with her vision of pursuing human traffickers who were Nigerian nationals to any part of the world where they would operate.
She said: “Like I said in my maiden news conference, if we miss them on their way out they will meet us waiting for them on arrival at destination.’’
She also expressed appreciation to the British and Spanish law enforcement agencies for the confidence reposed on NAPTIP agents in working together in such joint operations.