AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Police in Italy and across Europe have arrested a group of mainly Nigerian citizens accused of trafficking women for sex, European police agency Europol said on Wednesday.
Europol said it and the Italian 'carabinieri' paramilitary police had arrested 34 suspects in Italy as well as in France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Spain and San Marino.
Members of the criminal group had also worked with two Italian doctors to organise forced abortions, the Hague-based agency said.
Europol said investigations had focused on groups located in the coastal Marche region of Italy, where victims were held in criminal cells led by 'madames' and had to hand over all their earnings to pay off debt incurred for their journey to Italy.
"The victims were subject to continued intimidation and violence, aimed at guaranteeing a daily income and to ensure their compliance," Europol said in a statement.
After providing victims with counterfeit documents, some were trafficked through the Netherlands and France where they were met and accompanied to Italy by members of the criminal group, while others came by sea or through Turkey and Greece.
The arrests follow a police bust of a drug trafficking network in April, in which drugs were smuggled from Madrid in Spain to the Italian regions of Piedmont and Marche by using drug 'mules', who were often the women forced into prostitution.