‘Mary’, 18, is in a safe house in Taormina, Sicily, for victims of sex trafficking after being brought from Benin City, Nigeria. According to Italian statistics online, there are currently between 10,000 and 20,000 African sex workers in Italy, most of them from Edo State / Photo: VII / UNICEF

Italian police arrest traffickers for recruiting Nigerian minors into prostitution

Police arrested one of the women, and she was released after entering into a plea bargain. The second woman is still being sought by police. 
Public prosecutor Roberto Ceroni coordinated the investigation, which brought the trafficking operation to light. 
The case of a 15-year-old ‘bought’ in Nigeria 
The investigation began with the case of a 15-year-old girl who was reportedly bought in Nigeria after being sold by her father to the “madam” who is currently being sought by police. Investigators said the woman, 26, managed the trafficking operation and is accused of human trafficking, aggravated prostitution, underage prostitution, and facilitating illegal immigration. 
The other woman who was arrested in the operation, aged 39, is accused of prostitution because she managed a brothel, and she has agreed to a plea bargain. 
Journey from Nigeria to Italy cost 20,000 euros 
The 15-year-old told police about the trafficking operation. She said that before leaving Nigeria, she was forced to undergo voodoo rituals. She arrived in Ferrara after a journey that ended in Libya in 2017 and continued aboard a boat to Sicily. The price of the journey was 20,000 euros, which she said she was supposed to repay by prostituting herself. 
The young woman, however, found the courage to go to the police in Ferrara and ask for protection. Investigators said other young Nigerians were also forced into prostitution by the 26-year-old “madam”. 
Two women, aged 24 and 26, were identified in Ferrara, while another two young women managed by the same 26-year-old were identified in Vincenza. 
In all, investigators said the trafficking involved more than 10 women who were forced into prostitution. The investigation also found a case of forced abortion, in which the “madam” advised specific drugs. 
The 39-year-old woman played a lesser role, in that investigators said she made women prostitute themselves in the house where she lived, and she was in contact with the 26-year-old woman being sought. 
During the investigation, police said they also uncovered a man and a woman who extorted money from Italy to Nigeria. Police stopped the pair at the Bologna airport with bags full of cash and the two are now under investigation for money laundering. Investigators said the money came from the prostitution.

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