A judge in the city of Catania on Italy's island of Sicily has sentenced 11 Nigerian nationals to a total of 136 years in prison for the international trafficking of young women and girls from their home country to Italy, where they enslaved them and forced them to engage in prostitution.
Some 136 years in prison have been handed down to 11 defendants of Nigerian nationality, with sentences ranging between six and twenty years.
The trial was held just over a year after the 'Promise Island' operation by the Catania flying squad against a gang which was accused of running an international trafficking ring targeting young women and girls from their home country and bringing them to Italy, where they enslaved them and forced them to engage in prostitution.
The longest sentence, of 20 years, was handed down to a 34-year-old man considered to be the leader of the organization.
Arrests made in 2020
The arrests were made in the Sicily, Piedmont, and Veneto regions on June 12, 2020, during an operation by the Catania flying squad against a transnational criminal network with cells operating in Nigeria, Libya, Italy, and other European countries. The cells specialized in human trafficking.
The police, coordinated by the Catania district prosecutor's office, had thanks to the collaboration of one victim managed to shed light on the network which brought young women and girls -- including minors -- to Italy to then force them into prostitution within the country and abroad.
At least 15 victims have been found, who the defendants referred to as "cars" in conversations.
The victim who collaborated with the authorities is a minor who arrived in Catania on April 17, 2017, along with 433 other migrants on the Aquarius ship run by the private rescue organization SOS Mediterranee.
Investigators managed to reconstruct the group's activities, which during the eight-month-long investigation moved €1.2 million through Postepay credit cards: all money from prostitution activities that the victims were forced to engage in after being lured to Italy with the promise of jobs and a better life.
The victims had to pay back the money for the journey: from €25,000 to €30,000 each.
Prior to their departure from Africa, they were reportedly intimidated by juju rites. They had been recruited by the families still in Nigeria of those found guilty.