Italian authorities busted two Nigerian mafia groups operating in Italy and abroad to traffic migrants. Investigators said that the groups forced women into sex work.
Italian police busted two Nigerian clans operating in Italy and abroad that allegedly trafficked and sold women into sex slavery
on Tuesday. Some 32 people were arrested in Puglia, Sicily, Campania, Calabria, Lazio, Abruzzo, Marche, Emilia Romagna, Veneto and, abroad, in Germany, France, Netherlands and Malta.
Those arrested are suspected of conspiracy, trafficking, enslaving women, extortion, robbery, bodily harm, sexual violence and exploitation, police said.
'Women, money and drugs'
The two clans were the "Supreme Vikings Confraternity" and the "Supreme Eye Confraternity," better known as "Reds" and "Blues."
The gangs allegedly operated with the slogan "the three Ds", referring to "donne, denaro e droga" (women, money and drugs).
The probe was led by Bari anti-mafia prosecutors and coordinated by the central operational service in Rome with the help of Interpol. The investigation was carried out by the Bari flying squad. Some 49 people were placed under investigation, all Nigerian nationals.
Investigators said the gangs forced women into prostitution. The victims were reportedly subjected to physical and psychological violence, also via voodoo rites.
The proceeds of the prostitution rackets were reportedly sent to Nigeria via couriers or 'hawala' systems, or reinvested in drug trafficking.
The bust was hailed by several politicians.
Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese said that "today's international operation attests to the attention and hard work of the investigators and police forces to combat on the whole national territory all the various ramifications of the Nigerian mafia".
Brothers of Italy (FdI) leader Giorgia Meloni said "we must extirpate this cancer."
League MP Rossano Sasso said the probe had yet again highlighted the need to close down the vast CARA asylum seeker center in Bari, where much of the trafficking and drug dealing allegedly took place.
'Let there be no exploitation of this affair'
The Bari prosecutor's office warned against exploiting the probe to tar all Nigerian migrants with the same brush. "Let there be no exploitation of this affair. The Nigerians who have been arrested are persons who committed crimes, exactly like we do with people of any colour, race or country," they said in a statement. "There are very many Nigerians who asked for help in the forms laid down by the law, who asked the Italian State... to intervene to restore order and justice".