Thirty-nine Nigerians have been rescued from a sex slave trade in Spain, the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) has said.

The trafficking ring was said to have been organised by Nigerians and the victims were reportedly forced to reside in “cave-like houses”.

They were freed in a joint operation involving the NCA, Spanish law enforcement and the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP).

The victims — many of whom are said to be under 18 — were reportedly forced to undergo ‘voodoo-juju’ rituals in Nigeria by some traffickers linked with an organised criminal network known as the Eiye Confraternity.

“They were then moved by boat to Libya and Italy, before arriving in Spain,” the NCA said in a statement on its website.

“The women were forced to live in cave-like houses in unsafe and unsanitary conditions, unable to leave and sexually exploited for the sole purpose of financial gain for the gang leaders, with all money eventually ending up in their hands in Nigeria.”

The statement said a total of 89 people – including the leader of the gang – were arrested in the course of the investigation, with 43 of them remanded in prison.

Among them is a “Nigerian Madame living in Middleton, Greater Manchester, believed to be controlling some of the victims in Spain, and paying money to the OCG back in Nigeria”.

Tom Dowdall, deputy director, modern slavery and human trafficking threat of the NCA, was quoted to have described the sex trafficking as a “complex and extensive operation with deep-rooted organisation both in Nigeria and Spain.

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