A Nigerian woman has been arrested in the Puglia province of Foggia for allegedly forcing into prostitution young women and girls who had arrived in Italy from Nigeria using voodoo rituals as a threat, according to police.
Flying squad police in the Sicilian city of Siracusa, in collaboration with police in Foggia, have carried out an operation to arrest a Nigerian woman living in Foggia.
The arrest warrant was issued by a preliminary investigations judge (GIP) on February 8 in Catania, Sicily.
The suspect, who is in pre-trial custody, allegedly organized a prostitution ring, recruiting young women in Nigeria and forcing them to work as prostitutes in Italy, according to investigators.
Trafficking victims coerced through voodoo rites and death threats
According to police, the young women and girls were forced into prostitution using deceit and voodoo rituals, with death threats against the victims and their families.
The suspect allegedly convinced the victims to flee detention scenters after their arrival in Italy and to work for her by intimidating them through juju rites (also known as voodoo rites).
The Nigerian citizen faces charges including human trafficking, enslavement, aggravated by the fact that some of her alleged victims were minors, as well as threatening their lives and physical integrity by inducing them to travel from Nigeria to Italy through a perilous Mediterranean crossing, under the control of criminals who abused them, investigative sources said.
She is also accused of contributing to commit a crime organized by a transnational organized criminal group, aiding and abetting illegal immigration, sex trafficking and money laundering.
Investigation after victim's report
The investigation, coordinated by DDA anti-mafia investigators in Catania, started after a young Nigerian woman landed at the commercial port of Augusta (Sicily) in July 2016 and told authorities that she had travelled by bus from Nigeria to Libya and then crossed the Mediterranean to reach Italy by taking on a debt of 30,000 in "travel expenses".
During her period of "detention" in Libya, the woman said she had learned that she would be forced to work as a prostitute in and that she had been physically and mentally abused by the men watching her.
After her arrival in Italy, she asked police for help, investigative sources said.