According to investigators, the trafficking ring prostituted women in Lanzarote in the Canary Islands and other parts of Spain after luring them from their families in Nigeria. They are accused of binding them to an oath to pay back money for the passage to Spain and casting voodoo-type spells to guarantee their obedience.
The women were recruited from poor families in Nigeria and told they would get regular employment in Spain. They were then made to swear oaths that they would work off a debt to the gang of up to €50,000 (£37,000) before they could gain their freedom.
A kind of juju voodoo ritual was then performed, the police said, in which an animal would be sacrificed and something from the women’s bodies, nail clippings or pubic hair, kept by their new masters.
The women believed that they and family members would be killed if they did not cooperate with the ‘madames’ who ran the brothels they ended up in, according to the police version of the gang’s modus operandi.
The women were brought to Spain overland through Niger and Algeria to Morocco, where they joined other African immigrants attempting to reach the Canary Islands by boat.
The police said they could not give more specific information on the identities of the six suspects while a judge in Lanzarote oversees a full investigation. Court authorities believed that the criminal gang sought to use under age girls as prostitutes but none of the four women freed from their virtual captivity by the police was believed to be under 18.
The investigation began in February when police in Lanzarote started to suspect that a woman had been the victim of illegal trafficking. Officers then uncovered what they believe was a sex-slavery ring run by Nigerian citizens. Spain’s National Police said that prior to this case, between April 2013 and December 2014, they carried out 462 investigations into sex trafficking, leading to 1,450 arrests and the detection of 11,751 possible victims.
Prostitution is not illegal in Spain, but abusive pimping and soliciting in public places are penalised. There are 1,400 identifiable brothels in Spain, not counting clandestine apartments or other places where sex can be bought, police said.
According to the National Statistics Institute (INE), prostitution accounted for 0.35 per cent of Spain’s GDP in 2010, with trade amounting to €3.8 billion.