After a young sex trafficking victim spoke out against them, the Italian police arrested four alleged members of a Nigerian mafia organization on charges of human trafficking, kidnapping, and forced prostitution. One of the suspects was apprehended in Palermo, while the other three, who lived in Taranto, were apprehended in Taranto as well.
In the early hours of Tuesday, January 18, alleged Black Axe cult members were apprehended during operations in the Sicilian regional capital Palermo and the Puglian regional capital Taranto.
The Nigerian-based Black Axe cult group, which was established in 1990 is famed for carrying out ritual murders, mutilation, and rape. As of today, the group have a powerful international presence.
The police were acting on information from a young Nigerian migrant who claimed that the organization had pushed her into prostitution.
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“The suspects were charged with enslavement, human trafficking, kidnapping, and pandering [recruiting prostitutes],” according to the police.
The Nigerian woman who accused the suspected cultists was reportedly helped up by a Nigerian Pentecostal pastor.
The woman sought help from the pastor after being forced to work as a prostitute in Italy, according to Italian news agency AGI.
The woman claimed in her statement that she was transported to Italy after undergoing a “Juju” or traditional magic ritual in Nigeria.
She went on to say that she was kidnapped by a gang of Black Axe members in Nigeria, escaped with the help of a fellow Nigerian, and was then ordered to fly to Italy as a “slave” to repay them. She agreed to pay €15,000 for her journey during the ritual.
Traffickers recruiting women for the sex trade in Europe have been using the religious and cultural belief systems in Nigeria to effective control and enslave the women in their custody.
Some time last year, the Italian police reportedly busted a crime syndicate, arresting about 30 persons suspected of being members of the Nigerian Mafia organization and Black Axe cult group, which has been operating in several parts of the country, including the mafia’s alleged 35-year-old boss in Italy.
With this arrests, Italy is demonstrating its commitment to combating organized crime. It demonstrates the police’s capacity to combat old and emerging mafia groups that are attempting to expand their illegal reach and commerce.