Crimes of trafficking in human beings for the purpose of sexual exploitation, coerced prostitution and sexual assault
Assessed case number:
STS 178/2016 (Resolution Number: 178/2016)
Brief description of the case
The accused individuals were members of a poly-crime and pyramid-structured transnational criminal network which, among other criminal (mostly white-collar crime) activities, smuggled illegally females from Nigeria to Spain. Namely, the group was recruiting young females from Nigeria, arranging their transfer to Spain and forced them to prostitution.
There were four phases of the operations of the criminal organization responsible for the trafficking of Nigerian women for purposes of sexual exploitation. First, the recruitment, which was taking place through personal contact in the country of origin and the recruiters were Nigerian women, building that way more trust with the victims. Second, the transport and management of the trip, logistical arrangements such as maintenance, clothing, housing and migratory routes. The transit countries and transfer routes included mainly Morocco, Senegal and Turkey. Third, the exploitation phase, the prostitution of the Nigerian girls against their will, forcing them also to perform other criminal activities (i.e. robbery), in order to be able to pay back the alleged debts they had towards the members of the criminal group for arranging their transfer to Spain. Fourth, the last phase of the operations of the organization was the “regularization” of the victims in Spain, meaning the issuance of administrative documents needed for them to be able to legally stay in the country. They managed that through “white marriages” with Spanish citizens and were blackmailing the victims that they would be deported if they did not accept the “white marriage”.
One of the responsible persons for controlling the girls was a female of Nigerian origin. Another member of the criminal organization, a male, was using violence against the victims such as “knives and guns” as the phone records revealed. Moreover, the perpetrators threatened the victims and their families due to the supposed debt and, therefore, the victims were not free to decide for themselves. The perpetrators were using voodoo techniques to threaten both the victims and their families back in Nigeria and further control them. The perpetrators also instructed the victims on how to dress for the prostitution activities, how to treat their clients, how to talk to the authorities and how to behave in general. Various text messages were detected in which the criminal network members instructed the victims on how to use their fake personal data.
The autonomous police force of Catalonia (Mossos d'Esquadra) initially identified an individual, of Nigerian nationality and member of the criminal group, who had paid various businesses with false 20 & 30 EUR bank notes and was already condemned for falsification of bank notes. The police also recorded phone conversations between the perpetrators speaking in a closed Nigerian dialect and trying to encrypt it, mentioning that the police could be listening. The same members have also travelled to Napoli in order to import false bank notes for the purposes of the organisation and the Police later also found false credit, debit cards and bank accounts of the bank La Caixa, linked to the main defendant mentioned above.
Moreover, the criminal network members conducted various transfers in Nairas (Nigerian currency) equal to 250 EUR through the platform MoneyGram. Some of the payments of the group in Nigeria were arranged through the Hawala transfers method, according to the police investigation findings. Activities of the group were also detected in Dakar, Senegal, as the contact person responsible for the arrangement of the journey of the victims was based there.
Another interesting element of the criminal group´s activities was that some of its members were involved in card “skimming”, meaning the theft of credit and debit card data and PIN numbers when the user is at an automated teller machine (ATM) or point of sale (POS), manipulating the magnetic strips. In the houses of the perpetrators, police found “skimming” equipment, various credit cards, USB drives with software for card falsification, documentation linked to manipulated accounts in Swiss banks, many false cards linked to Spanish banks without their chips, numbers info of beneficiaries etc., false Nigerian passports and driving licenses, considerable amounts of cash, receipts of Western Union money transfers to third countries such as Greece or Norway, more than 12mobile phones and SIM cards, as well as bank books containing amounts of over a million EUR and thousands in GBP, among others.
The police investigation also showed that the perpetrators kept the victims “liquidity” at all times, making sure that they would always carry notable amounts of cash money. Finally, the registered phone records of the networks shown incoming and outgoing calls from and to Morocco, Iran, Turkey, Greece, Netherlands, Canada, France, Italy and of course Nigeria.