Italy: Nigerian Mafia Bust Reveals Sexual Slavery, Voodoo Rituals

Prostitutes stand walk on the street in Benin City, capital of Edo State, southern Nigeria, on March 29, 2017. In Benin City, Nigeria's capital of illegal migration, no one says the word 'prostitution'. The word on the street for the young girls who leave for Italy or France is 'hustling'. …

The Italian authorities have discovered the Nigerian mafia luring young women to Italy and using a combination of threats and voodoo rituals to force them into sexual slavery.

Italian authorities busted the Nigerian mafia operation in the city of Catania, Sicily this week, arresting five leading members including two sisters, Susan Elaho and Naomi Ikponwmasa, Il Giornale reports.

Investigators say that the organisation’s downfall came after a Nigerian girl who had been trafficked by them revealed the extent of their illegal activities, which included luring women from Nigeria and forcing them into street prostitution.

The two sisters were not the only women arrested in the operation. Helen-Susan Ikponwmasa was also taken into custody in Rome, where she also worked for organised crime.

According to the authorities, the group acted in co-ordination with other mafia groups both in Nigeria and in Libya, from which many of the girls would then be trafficked into Italy.

Often the girls were simply told they would become prostitutes when they arrived in Italy, but in some cases the gangsters also used voodoo rituals to force the young girls to co-operate with them.

The use of voodoo rituals has been seen in African sexual slavery operations across different countries in Europe since the onset of the migrant crisis, including in Sweden where court documents described a ritual where one girl “was forced to eat a raw chicken heart and was cut over the chest with razor blades, after which the priest rubbed animal blood in the wounds.”

A Liberian migrant woman was arrested in the United Kingdom last year for helping traffic women from Nigeria to Germany and was also revealed to have used voodoo practices to control women she trafficked.

The Nigerian mafia has grown in Italy in recent years to the point that some, like criminologist Alessandro Meluzzi, have argued that “ruthless” Nigerian criminals are “colonising Italy and stealing business from the traditional mafia families.”

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)


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