CRIMINAL gangs are using voodoo rituals to traffic young African women into Ireland to be exploited as prostitutes. Sligo is one of four counties currently under investigation by gardai targetting the destinations of the women.
The Irish Independent
reports that the "black magic" traffickers hoodwink the women into believing their families will suffer if they don't agree to travel here.
Gardai encountered the practice during a wide-ranging investigation into human trafficking.
The women are targeted by local 'witch doctors' who are hired by gangs to act as recruitment agents in areas where voodoo rituals are part of the culture.
The victims are then forced into prostitution and put to work in brothels, earning huge profits for the gang controlling the racket.
Now gardai are satisfied they have identified the organisers of the biggest prostitution and human-trafficking ring to operate here for several years.
An investigation discovered evidence to show it was the first prostitution racket run jointly by Irish and Nigerian criminals.
As a result of their inquiries, gardai have rescued 12 trafficking victims and the young women are being given an opportunity to rebuild their lives.
The gang is being targeted under Operation Mast, which is led by the human-trafficking investigation and co-ordination unit within the Garda National Immigration Bureau and has been under way for the past three-and-a-half years.Complex
Mast has concentrated, in particular, on the gang's activities in counties Sligo, Longford, Monaghan and Limerick.
Officers have sent a complex file on a dozen Irish and Nigerian suspects to the Director of Public Prosecutions -- and this is currently under consideration by lawyers.
Apart from the voodoo ploy, other Nigerian women have become victims of debt bondage. They owe sums of between €2,000 and €5,000 to the traffickers, who arranged for them to come here on the basis of finding legitimate jobs as nannies and domestic employees.
When they arrived here, they were forced into brothels set up around the country.
Gardai made a breakthrough when they found a woman who had been working as a prostitute from a house in an estate in Sligo town.
Gardai raided the house after it was noted some Nigerian women were living there without making themselves known to the relevant authorities.
One woman claimed she had earned €44,300 working as a prostitute by that stage and had given half of that directly to her controller, while the rest went on rent and bills.
A large chunk of the profits was then wired back to Nigeria through Western Union.
Meanwhile, a review by the US State Department has placed Ireland in the top tier of countries deemed to be meeting their obligations in tackling human trafficking.
This is the third year in a row for Ireland to be included in Tier One.
Gardai rescued 69 trafficking victims in 2009, 78 in 2010 and 57 last year.