Police smash international sex gang that coerced 17 Romanian women and one girl into becoming prostitutes in UK – after branding them with tattoos to make it known they were ‘theirs for life’
- Police ‘liberated’ 17 women and 1 underage girl, who were coerced into sex work
- Pimps would force them to sell bodies in clubs, private houses and on the street
- Gang would brand women with tattoos so rivals knew they belonged to them
- Moved women from base in Girona to UK and Romania when pandemic began
- Police made 19 arrests – eight in Spain and 11 in Romania – over the gang
Police have smashed an international sex gang who forced Romanian women to become prostitutes in Britain.
Police in Spain and Romania ‘liberated’ 17 women and one underage girl who were coerced into sex work.
Pimps would initially start relationships with their victims before forcing them to sell their bodies in clubs, private houses and on the street, police said.
The gang would also brand the women with tattoos so rival organisations knew they belonged to them and were ‘theirs for life’.
They moved the women from a base in the Catalan border province of Girona to the UK and Romania when the coronavirus pandemic kicked in.
Police made 19 arrests – eight in Spain and 11 in Romania – in an operation involving Spanish and Romanian officers, as well as the regional Catalan Mossos d’Esquadra police force.
Police have smashed an international sex gang who forced Romanian women to become prostitutes in Britain. The gang moved the women from a base in the Catalan border province of Girona to the UK and Romania when the coronavirus pandemic kicked in
Seven of the 18 rescued women were freed in Spain and the rest were in Romania.
Some of the women had been forced to continue selling their bodies despite falling pregnant.
A Spanish National Police spokesman said: ‘The organisation had links to the UK, Denmark and Germany, where it forced women to work as prostitutes and in some cases marked them with tattoos so that rival organisations knew they belonged to them as part of an effort to make them think they were theirs for life.
‘When the criminal organisation realised the coronavirus pandemic had led to a downturn in business and benefits in the areas it controlled in Girona, it moved most of its members and victims to Romania and the UK with the intention of returning to Spain when conditions improved.
‘The women were captured by members of the organisation who began relationships with them before sending them to countries like Spain and the UK where they made to work as prostitutes in clubs and on the street.
‘They were forced to work all the time, including in cases where they fell pregnant.
‘Among the material seized in Romania were pornographic photos featuring one of the women who was freed, a minor who was also forced to become a sex worker.’
News of the arrests comes after Home Secretary Priti Patel was last year urged to stop the UK being a ‘pimp’s paradise’ by campaigners who claimed trafficked women – especially from Romania – were being sexually exploited on an ‘industrial scale.’
Ms Patel was urged to follow other countries including France, Ireland and Sweden in cracking down on the demand that drives sex trafficking by criminalising paying for sex, decriminalising victims and shutting down pimping websites.
Dame Diana Johnson, the chair of the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on commercial sexual exploitation, said at the time: ‘The industrial-scale sexual exploitation of Romanian women by UK men is a national scandal.’
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