21 February 2018
A woman suspected of being a key member of an organised crime group that trafficked women from Nigeria to Europe and forced them into sex work has been arrested by National Crime Agency officers.
The Spanish national was apprehended on 2 February 2018 on a European Arrest Warrant after NCA investigators tracked her down to a house in Miles Platting, Manchester.
With support from Greater Manchester Police, NCA officers also detained two Nigerian men at the address aged 39 and 34 on suspicion of drugs and immigration offences.
A further 11 suspected members of the criminal network were arrested in the same week in Spain and four victims were safeguarded as part of a multi-agency operation led by the Spanish National Police with support from Europol and Nigeria’s National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP).
Spanish authorities believe the network recruited female victims in Benin, Nigeria, under false promises of a better life, before trafficking them to Spain. Once there, they were forced into prostitution to pay off their ‘debt’.
Investigators believe the victims were coerced using voodoo rituals and controlled this way through fear that if they did not comply, they or their family would be killed. As part of the rituals, they would be forced to eat raw chicken hearts and had their fingernails and pubic hair pulled out.
Liam Vernon from the NCA’s Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Unit, said: “Through close cooperation with the Spanish authorities and Greater Manchester Police, we have located and arrested a woman believed to be a key member of a network that trafficked and forced vulnerable women into prostitution against their will.
“Criminals involved in modern slavery seek out and exploit vulnerable individuals. They treat their victims as a commodity that can generate income over and over again.
“Tackling this threat is a priority for the NCA and we are committed to working with partners in the UK and overseas to pursue and disrupt those responsible.”
Anyone who suspects modern slavery can call their local police force on 101 or the Modern Slavery Helpline on 0800 121 700.