Women freed from Bulgarian prostitution ring in Puerto Banus

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SPANISH POLICE reported on Tuesday to have broken up a Bulgarian gang that sought the ‘total control’ of prostitution on the coast of Marbella.

The operation, carried out in cooperation with Bulgarian police and the European Union law enforcement agency Europol, led to the arrests of 34 alleged members of the gang and the ‘liberation’ of 13 victims who were forced into prostitution, police said in a statement.

The gang is suspected of recruiting young women in deprived areas of Bulgaria – the EU’s poorest country – and bringing them to Spain, forcing them to work as prostitutes in the streets of Puerto Banus, the luxury marina and casino complex near Marbella.

‘If they refused they were violently attacked and their family members in Bulgaria were threatened with harm’ the statement said. Adding that women who had left behind children in Bulgaria were ‘especially sensitive’.

Police said the gang also forced the women to steal credit cards and other valuables from clients, suspecting some women of having drugged the men to make this easier.

Police began their investigation in September 2014 after a Bulgarian woman told officers in Marbella that she had escaped from people who were forcing her to work as a prostitute.

‘The probe allowed investigators to prove that the first exploiters who were found did not act alone, but were part of an enormous international network that operated mainly in Spain and Bulgaria and whose aim was to achieve the total control of prostitution on the coast of Marbella,’ the police statement said.

Officers arrested 26 of the suspected members of the gang in Spain and eight in Bulgaria, searching 36 locations in the two countries.

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