Nigerian Prostitutes in Europe Linked to a Bank

Revelations of Caritas-Italy Volunteers

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SALERNO, Italy, MAR. 28, 2001 ( Caritas-Italy sources revealed that the sale of Nigerian women as prostitutes in Europe is controlled by a Nigerian bank.

Volunteers of the Italian Church´s aid organization in Salerno have gathered the testimonies of several young women, whom they have rescued from this «slavery,» with the help of the John XXIII Association of Rimini, headed by Father Oreste Benzi.

The director of the «Caritas Group Against Trafficking,» who has rescued nine women in one year from the hands of organized crime, explained that about 10 or 12 volunteers constantly risk their lives in trying to help these women.

The work undertaken is so dangerous that the volunteers prefer anonymity. Twice a week, these Caritas volunteers comb the east of Salerno by car, to establish a rapport with young Nigerian and Eastern European prostitutes.

The oldest prostitutes are 23; some are as young as 14. The volunteers have reconstructed the mafias´ plan of action, with the information supplied by the young women. The network is highly organized: There are countries where the girls are found, and cities and centers where the «merchandise» is «stored,» auctioned and distributed to European cities.

In the case of Nigerian women, a Nigerian bank offers them or their families a loan of $14,000 to $18,000 so that they can travel to Italy to secure «honest» jobs, guaranteed by the bank.

Once they arrive in Europe, the young women are put in touch with a tribal witch-doctor, who performs a voodoo ceremony and then hands them over to a «madam» who runs a brothel. The women must earn a certain amount every day, to pay for their «job» and repay the loan.

The Caritas volunteers began to be suspicious when they saw branches of a Nigerian bank opened along Salerno´s coast. The young women who are forced into prostitution must deposit their earnings in these banks.

«We have a spiritual closeness especially with the African girls,» said one volunteer, who asked for anonymity. «We meet to pray. About 50 have taken part in a prayer meeting. We offered one 17-year-old one day´s earnings so that she could attend Christmas Mass, but she did nothing but cry. Two days later, she asked us to help her change her life. So we put her in a car, and had her disappear from the street.»

One police study estimates there are about 70,000 prostitutes in Italy, a third of them minors. The study says there are 500,000 prostitutes in Europe.

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