A ‘famous’ DJ has been arrested after 39 women and girls were rescued from a notorious sex trafficking ring.
The victims, many of them teenagers, were threatened with black magic, forced into prostitution and kept in squalid cave-like houses, according to Europol.
Gang members forced the victims into sex work to pay off a £26,000 ‘travel’ debt and were controlled with voodoo threats.
But 89 people – including a well-known Nigerian DJ who has not been yet been named – have now been arrested in what is one of the biggest trafficking busts in Europe, according to Europol.
The DJ allegedly helped move victims to Spain and organise sexual exploitation across the country.
He was caught flying back into Spain after recording a music video.
Spanish police rescued the women and the operation was carried out in collaboration with British and Nigerian law enforcement agencies.
The victims, many under the age of 18, were believed to have undergone voodoo “juju” rituals in Nigeria to force them to comply with orders, Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) said.
The investigation began when one of the underage victims reported to police that she had been coerced into trafficking by voodoo threats in Nigeria.
The victims were transferred from Nigeria to Europe via Libya and Italy.
Once in Spain, the women were kept in squalid conditions in cave houses in Almeria, where they were exploited in prostitution to pay off the EUR 30 000 debt they owed to the criminal organisation.
They were then forced into prostitution to pay off “debts” of 30,000 euros ($36,900) each that they were told they owed the organisation for their journey to Europe.
Europol said bank accounts used by the network to launder more than 300,000 euros had been blocked.
“(This) was a highly organised crime gang, exploiting young woman for lengthy periods of time, keeping them in horrendous conditions where they knew there would be no escape,” the NCA’s deputy director Tom Dowdall said in a statement.
Europol said raids were carried out across 11 Spanish cities last November but the operation could not be announced until Thursday to avoid jeopardising investigations.
The NCA said police had also arrested a Nigerian woman in Manchester this year who they believe was controlling some of the victims in Spain.
She is in custody awaiting extradition to Spain, it said.
A Europol statement said the Nigerian crime ring was linked to the Eiye Confraternity – a network that Spanish police have previously compared to the mafioso in Chicago in the 1930s.
Europol said Eiye operated in clandestine groups all over the world, funding the organisation in Nigeria through both legal and illicit activities, particularly through human trafficking.