The UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) has taken part in a Europol supported operation to dismantle a human trafficking network, which resulted in the safeguarding of four Nigerian women who were forced into prostitution in different Spanish locations.
Europol explains that human trafficking is a modern form of slavery and there are usually transnational elements to the crime.
According to Europol it can take a variety of forms, including:
- sexual exploitation, including prostitution;
- forced labour or services;
- slavery, servitude and related practices;
- the removal of vital organs; and
- exploitation for the purpose of forced criminality i.e. forcing victims to commit crimes such as pickpocketing, shoplifting and drug trafficking.
Spanish Based Network
On this occasion, the dismantled trafficking network operated mainly in Spain, but also in Italy, the United Kingdom, Libya, Niger and Nigeria. The operation also involved the Spanish National Police and the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons from Nigeria.
The investigation to dismantle the network apparently began one year ago. The members of the criminal network recruited their victims by coercing them with voodoo threats in Benin City, Nigeria. The women were forced to eat a raw chicken heart and drink whisky as the criminals took clippings of their hair and nails. The criminals then used fraudulent documents to traffic the women to Spain.
The ring leaders were based in Torrelavega, Spain and they controlled the whole network from there. In addition to operating from four different locations in Spain, the investigation revealed that some members of the ring were acting from Italy and the UK.
A European Arrest Warrant was issued by Spain and a house search took place in the UK as one of the individuals was found to be living in Manchester. The Spanish national was apprehended by NCA officers, with the support of Greater Manchester Police, after NCA investigators tracked down her location. NCA also detained two Nigerian men at the same address on suspicion of drugs and immigration offences.
In addition, the operation resulted in the arrest of a further eleven suspected members of the criminal network in Spain.
“Through close cooperation with the Spanish authorities and Greater Manchester Police, we have located and arrested a woman believed to be a key member of a network that trafficked and forced vulnerable women into prostitution against their will,” explained Liam Vernon from the NCA’s Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Unit.
“Criminals involved in modern slavery seek out and exploit vulnerable individuals,” he added. “They treat their victims as a commodity that can generate income over and over again.”
“Tackling this threat is a priority for the NCA and we are committed to working with partners in the UK and overseas to pursue and disrupt those responsible,” he said.
Europol’s role in the operation was to provide information exchange and analytical support. On the second day of action analysts were deployed to Spain equipped with a mobile office and a data extraction device. This allowed for real-time information exchange and cross-checks of the data gathered during the course of the action against Europol’s databases.
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Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.