Twelve members of two pimp organizations have been sentenced to up to 35 years in prison for sexually exploiting young Nigerians in various cities in our country. In two sentences to which elDiario.es has had access, the Supreme Court confirms, on the one hand, the sentences of almost 8 years of a marriage that sexually exploited two women in Almería and, on the other, the sentences of up to 35 years to a group of pimps who did the same with almost a dozen victims in Torrevieja. The judges say about one of the victims that the pimps “tried to dehumanize her to an extent that is difficult to describe.”
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All cases describe similar situations. Young Nigerian women – some even minors – were convinced to come to Spain with the promise of a better life and money to help their families. Most crossed Niger and Algeria before crossing the Mediterranean in a boat and arriving at a refugee camp in Italy, where the organization managed to get them to our country. Other victims crossed the Ceuta border embedded in the trunk or dashboard of a car. Almost all of them were raped on the way.
Once in our country they were forced into prostitution under threats of harming their families and under the influence of a voodoo ritual to reinforce their threats. They were sexually exploited day and night to pay non-existent debts of up to 50,000 euros that, supposedly, they had acquired with their captors for what their trip to Spain had cost. The two young women brought to Almería in 2016 were sexually exploited in a farmhouse in Níjar. Those sexually exploited in the Alicante town of Torrevieja arrived in Spain between 2014 and 2016, although this group of pimps had been operating since 2010.
One case was tried by the Almería High Court and the other by the National High Court and now both convictions have been confirmed by the Supreme Court. In the first case, the judges have imposed sentences of 7 years and 9 months in prison on the couple who sexually exploited two women and sentences also of 9 months in prison for the two managers of two premises where they were prostituted and the waiter of one of them .
In the second case, up to seven victims were detected and there are seven sentenced to sentences of between 6 and 35 years in prison. The highest sentence is for the woman who led the organization, although the Justice specifies that, at most, she will spend 15 years behind bars. Along with prison sentences, the courts also force pimps to compensate their victims with amounts similar to the money they were led to believe they had to pay in exchange for their freedom: in some cases up to 50,000 euros.
“Dehumanize” the victims
In recent years, the Supreme Court has described human trafficking as the “slavery of the 21st century” and in one of these judgments, with magistrate Javier Hernández as speaker, it describes the hell to which pimps put these young women and vulnerable. “The events of which she was a victim tried to dehumanize her to an extent that is difficult to describe, depriving her of the minimum quality of life to which everyone has the right,” says the Supreme Court in the case of prostituted women in Torrevieja. The moral damage, according to the judges, “is so intense and its projection on the value of dignity and the free development of the personality and the rights to freedom, autonomy and privacy so serious and evident” that they guarantee the compensation imposed by the National audience.
The two sentences describe what this dehumanization consisted of. Once in our country they were completely isolated from their families and forced to prostitute themselves day and night, the pimps kept all the money and forced the women in some cases to pay them rent and expenses. They couldn’t talk to anyone and they had to walk around whatever the temperature was at the time. The Supreme Court describes that they were “without their own documentation, without knowing anyone except the pimp, without family or financial support, being in an unknown country whose language was foreign to them and with no other possibility of survival.”
The two sentences describe how a good part of the initial subjugation of the victims was achieved through voodoo rituals performed in Nigeria before leaving. Rituals with which they convinced the victims that if they disobeyed, they and their families would suffer the consequences. One of the threats was that if they did not submit to their captors they would “go crazy.” The National Court describes that “in these rituals shepherds of religious confessions participated, who acted in collusion with the captors, and that they cut samples of the victims’ pubic hair and nails, and ordered them to obey those in charge of the trip and stay in Europe”.
The role of these religious is usually limited to the stage of recruitment that occurs in the countries of origin, in this case in Nigeria, but the cause opened in the National Court also tried to explore the role of the aforementioned pastors in our country. At first, the National Police accused a pastor of the Iglesia Misión Pentecostal del Último Reino in Torrevieja of participating in sexual exploitation, but he was finally acquitted after hearing the testimonies of the victims dissociating him.
The suspicions that weighed on the pastor came from what the Police found in the church registry in February 2016: the passports of 8 Nigerian girls captured by the group and money from their sexual exploitation. Some victims had targeted the Nigerian priest as part of the organization, but finally related how he urged many of them to leave prostitution and tried to help them. The Police accused the network of using “the influence of a spiritual leader, a pastor of a church in this Alicante town” that forced the victims “to pay the pastor to be forgiven for practicing prostitution.”
Almost 500 victims
The latest report from the State Attorney General’s Office reveals that throughout 2020 the researchers opened 136 legal proceedings with 470 victims of sexual exploitation detected and 437 people investigated. Almost half of these victims were “in a situation of grave risk”, with more than 95% of them being women. The Prosecutor’s Office added that “for the first time it can be said that they come from the five continents” with the number of Colombian and Venezuelan victims increasing “spectacularly” compared to previous years.
The same report explains that “there is a constant increase in human trafficking committed by organized groups,” even in the midst of the pandemic. Crimes that, according to the Prosecutor’s Office, are very difficult to investigate due to the international nature of these organizations: the report says that “their complexity lies in the fact that many of the intervening parties do not reside in our country and international cooperation is needed for their total clarification “.
According to data from the Ministry of the Interior, throughout 2020 the National Police released 204 victims of trafficking in our country, in addition to arresting 220 people allegedly involved in these international networks of sexual exploitation. The cooperation channels also received 1,119 calls and 1,317 emails from citizens advising investigators about possible trafficking situations.