October 5th, 2011
01:33 PM ET

Police: Raid frees 30 from alleged forced prostitution

For months, the CNN Freedom Project has followed the an extensive investigation into the transporting of Chinese workers into Spain. In a special series in July, CNN went behind-the-scenes of the struggle against human trafficking through the eyes of the local investigators.

By CNN's Al Goodman

MADRID - Police in Barcelona have arrested 39 members of a suspected Chinese mafia and freed 30 young Chinese women whom they allegedly forced into prostitution, a senior officer of the Catalan regional police told CNN Wednesday.

The arrests occurred earlier this week after a long investigation. It was the biggest strike to date against Chinese-run mafias involved in forced prostitution in the northeast region of Catalonia, whose capital is Barcelona, said the senior officer, Xavier Cortes, head of the Catalan police unit that fights human trafficking.

In recent years, the Chinese crime syndicate had crowded out others from the prostitution market in the fashionable Eixample district of Barcelona by using forced prostitution and charging below-market rates, Cortes said.

Why is Catalonia a hot spot for human trafficking?

The women were forced to work in unsanitary conditions and in marathon sessions, seeing eight clients in a row for an hour each, he said.

After initial arraignments, a judge ordered 33 of the suspects to remain in prison. Six others were released but remain under investigation, and must check in regularly with authorities, Cortes said.

Police are searching for six additional suspects, Cortes said. A total of 17 brothels were dismantled.

The 30 women were initially placed in special assistance centers run by a non-governmental organization, but some have now left to live with friends in Barcelona, he said.

The suspected Chinese mafia also was involved in document forgery, said Joaquim Frances, of the Catalan police organized crime unit, at a news conference Wednesday in Barcelona.

"In addition to prostitution, the gang also was involved human trafficking," Frances said. "Barcelona was the hub used to later send these people to the United States, Australia and Canada. So for a time, they were kept against their will in Barcelona or nearby until they were provided with documents in order to travel to these countries."

In numerous raids, the police seized forged passports from many countries - what Cortes called "perfect and very dangerous false documents" - as well as the machinery to make them.

The Chinese mafia also was involved in drug trafficking, and police seized some weapons in the raids, Cortes added.

The Catalan police broke up a forced-labor scheme involving Chinese clothing sweatshops in 2009, freeing several hundred victims and arresting more than 100 suspects.

But across the nation, police and non-governmental organizations say the biggest problem of modern-day slavery in Spain is forced prostitution, involving not just Chinese women, but also women from Latin America, North Africa and Eastern Europe.

Last year, Spanish police broke up a ring that tricked Brazilian men into coming to Spain and then forced them to work as male prostitutes.

Topics: In The News

soundoff (68 Responses)
  1. Leafonthewind

    There's nothing in the article about what will become of these 30 women. Will they be allowed to stay in Spain? Will they be sent home? Will some other country step up and offer shelter? It's all well and good to "free" them, but what happens now? I wonder if CNN will follow up on this story.

    October 5, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Reply
    • Hugo

      Excellent questions. Too bad I don't have even mediocre answers.

      October 5, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Reply
    • Echo Kilo 19

      I see you're not a big fan of actually READING the story, lol. Plainly states the 30 women have either stayed in special assistant centers, or are staying with friends in Barcelona.

      October 5, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Reply
      • JD

        What a snarky answer! Play nice.

        October 5, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
      • JBBBB

        I find it interesting you said they didn't read the story, you do realize that the centers are not for life, right? They mean what happens AFTER. And those who are staying with friends will either have to apply for a visa or go back to their native countries.

        October 5, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
      • Daniel Molloy

        You, Sir, are an idiot. Probably a Teabagger. No need for hostility here.

        October 7, 2011 at 6:50 am |
    • dallas

      Good Question?

      October 5, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Reply
    • Karen

      They will probably be kept in Spain until the trial is over as they are material witnesses/victims. After that, I would imagine that Spain will give them an opportunity for asylum. It would be up to their laws. My suggestion is that you contact CNN's Al Goodman who wrote the story and as him. Often, CNN's articles fail to foresee the obvious questions and even make an attempt to address them.

      October 5, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Reply
  2. Americandream

    CNN needs to start from US rather than going to other countries..There is lot of human trafficking going in US when compared to other countries infact US is a hub for human trafficking.....it is like telling others not to step on dirt..while stepping yourself on poo..

    October 5, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Reply
    • Orso

      CNN did a few reports on this topic from the USA. Search them and read them, they are actually pretty good.

      October 5, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Reply
    • escapingwinesburg

      People in other countries are just as important as people in the US, and thus the stories are equally important.

      October 5, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Reply
    • Boston

      Americandream – Why are you calling out CNN for starting abroad? This isn't investigative journalism, they're reporting a bust that the authorities in Spain conducted. It's called news. If there was a bust in the US, CNN would write an article about it. You should complain to US authorities for not doing enough to prevent human trafficking, if you're so concerned.

      October 5, 2011 at 6:58 pm | Reply
    • Juls

      But the bust happened in Spain. This is a news site. That was news. They reported it.

      October 5, 2011 at 7:09 pm | Reply
  3. Juan Julio Rod

    Many women here in the Good Ol' USA are forced into this line of work also, cuz they kant gets no jobs, Whooz gonna bust them out??

    October 5, 2011 at 3:13 pm | Reply
    • James

      If they went into the work willingly and are there willingly there is no busitng out to be done.

      October 5, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Reply
      • Angela

        James, just because they went into it willingly does not mean they can get out easily. Most of the time these women end up with a pimp who gets all of their money. They get beat and drugged on a frequent basis.

        October 5, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • Levi

      Also many idiots need to learn how to spell. Go to school dumba$$

      October 5, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Reply
      • Steve

        Oh good I was afraid Levi wasn't here to be the grammar police.

        October 5, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
      • gary

        This is not your classroom or domain. Correct spelling isn't necessary here.

        October 5, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
      • denim

        It's required everywhere, unless you don't mind looking ignorant.

        October 5, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
    • toof987

      The education system failed you, Juan.

      October 5, 2011 at 6:00 pm | Reply
    • Sharp

      A real good reason to de criminalize. In the Nevada houses the girls are independent contractors who earn approximately 500K a year. They are licensed by the state & checked by doctors weekly. Their net pay, pre tax is about 250k since the house gets half. They are free to leave at any time. Many own businesses in Reno , Carson City & elsewhere.

      October 5, 2011 at 10:27 pm | Reply
  4. 16halo

    No one is safe especially the poor.

    October 5, 2011 at 3:14 pm | Reply
  5. Chris

    I thought this would be an article about some Republican campaign aides leaving.

    October 5, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Reply
    • Steve

      That is an unusual statement from the party that had a president who molested an aid, in the oval office and then committed a federal felony by lying under oath to a grand jury about the incident......

      October 5, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Reply
      • Sharp

        The immorality of the Republicans runs far deeper than the petty things you mention.

        October 5, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
  6. Soulsistah

    The woman must be respected and protected or this whole earth will rot...

    October 5, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Reply
    • James Buchanan

      Not really, the world got by for millenia just fine treating women like chattel. Not that this is a good thing, but don't imagine its a fatal flaw in human civilization, either.

      October 5, 2011 at 6:15 pm | Reply
      • JeanV

        Disgusting much?

        October 9, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
  7. Tewrobert

    I wonder why they "kant" gets no jobs??

    October 5, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Reply
    • Canuck

      LOL Dey Kant Get No Jobz Cuz Dey Kant Speak Da English Nah Meen?

      October 5, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Reply
    • denim

      Dey tuk yr jrbs!

      October 5, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Reply
  8. Andyvon

    They should be sent home. Why should they be paid Spanish or European housing and welfare when European countries can't even afford to care for their own people? If these people look for work they only compete with locals for jobs then send money home so the host nation loses national wealth. The USA, Australia, NZ etc don't allow parasites to turn up and hold their hands out to milk their systems so why should Europe? Send these people home.

    October 5, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Reply
    • Ramrod

      You talk like an expert. Are you involved in this "business"?

      October 5, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Reply
  9. bailoutsos

    Chinese mafia? --- Maybe they are in America living under the cities they helped build?

    October 5, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Reply
    • Ahmed

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      March 6, 2012 at 1:16 am | Reply
  10. jamoke

    You want happy ending with your massage???

    October 5, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Reply
  11. trixen

    Just think of all the ones who haven't been freed... Depressing, ain't it?

    October 5, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Reply
  12. Texas

    The comments you people leave on here are simply embarrassing. Those poor women were falsely led into that horrible profession and I pray for healing.

    October 5, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Reply
    • denim

      Well put.

      October 5, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Reply
    • toof987

      Welcome to the internet. Enjoy your stay.

      October 5, 2011 at 6:01 pm | Reply
  13. midnightrambler444

    Now what will they do for a living?

    October 5, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Reply
  14. sociologist

    The entire situation is sad and painful in many ways but it is also human nature, there have been slaves the entire existence of mankind on this planet. To think you will stop or eradicate slavery is as foolish as thinking you can eradicate conflict or war. It is part of human nature and slavery in form or another will exist for the foreseeable future. We can try to prevent it, try to punish those who abuse these young people yet in the end someone will do this again.

    October 5, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Reply
  15. MadAsHell

    For starters, I would cut the willies and nuts of the men and forced sterilization of the women involved in this outrage. A choice would be to behead them and be done for it. There is no excuse for this human abuse.

    October 5, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Reply
  16. Lou50

    great, for a moment I thought it was here. if here the tax payer would be supporting these people in the form of housing, food and education. we need to fix that and just safely deport them.

    October 5, 2011 at 5:58 pm | Reply
    • James Buchanan

      With morons like you running the US, you'd hit them with a tax bill from the IRS on their earnings from their time in the brothel...

      October 5, 2011 at 6:19 pm | Reply
  17. Paul Fletcher

    Reading the comments is much better than any atricle. I ponder the structure of the minds and shall be off to the next article of interest to be amazed at the spectrum of self-expression as a signpost to human testimony. Good luck all and remember to follow the yellow brick road.

    October 5, 2011 at 6:16 pm | Reply
  18. ma &.pa

    In America they're living in the "graves" they helped dig and in walls and halls and crawlspaces.

    October 5, 2011 at 6:18 pm | Reply
  19. Paul Fletcher

    The Wizard will help you all and oh, by the way, don't take any static from some green lady with a funny hat and raspy broom.

    October 5, 2011 at 6:19 pm | Reply
  20. Zero_gee

    I hope that U.S. law enforcement is working with the Spanish authorities and INTERPOL to pin-point slave operations here in the Americas. Ditto Australia.

    October 5, 2011 at 6:19 pm | Reply
  21. ma & pa

    "living under the cities they helped build" and in walls and halls and crawlspaces.

    October 5, 2011 at 6:26 pm | Reply
  22. ZannyTheNanny

    Why it says Peru???

    October 5, 2011 at 7:44 pm | Reply
  23. slong

    wow I thought this was about congress....

    October 5, 2011 at 9:34 pm | Reply
  24. Peter

    Chinese must not be allowed to enter the European Union for any reason.

    October 5, 2011 at 9:49 pm | Reply
  25. Jon

    In certain instances, I think it's ok to go to the alley and shoot people who enslave others like this. Just shoot them then and there and throw their stinking carcasses into the nearest bin.

    October 5, 2011 at 11:02 pm | Reply
  26. Keely

    It would be ideal if we could all realize that everytime a ring is broken up- no matter where in the world it is or whether the whole process is perfect- is still a win for everyone. It's a statement that we will not tolerate human abuse.

    October 5, 2011 at 11:56 pm | Reply
  27. Swagga

    One word China = Problem

    October 9, 2011 at 7:40 am | Reply
  28. Rae

    China is not the problem and Chinese should not be banned from entering the European Union for any reason. Doing so would be the same as blaming Italy and Italians for organized crime activities in America and banning Italian immigrants. Suggestions such as these are irrelevant and racist. Crimes are committed every day by people from many different ethnic backgrounds. We should not blame an entire ethnic group or nation for the actions of a tiny group of criminals in their population. Do not become the same kind of person Hitler was when he condemned the Jews. It is easy to become a beast. Its better to be human.

    October 24, 2011 at 2:41 am | Reply

    NOTMYLIFE/MODERN DAY SLAVERY: I WAS BORN POOR BUT FREE. WHY DO YOU TURN ME OFF LIKE THAT? WHY HAVE YOU TAKEN AWAY MY FREEDOM? I look forward to the day that the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I WANT TO BE FREE................

    October 24, 2011 at 2:47 am | Reply
  30. creeps

    Youz folks whoz kant spell crack me up- bunch of iliterate bro's goin no wherez.....
    you sound so stupid its embarrassing- go move to a third world country if you kant learn to speak or read and go stand under a food drop its youz only chance for survivel

    October 24, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Reply
  31. Bob

    No way

    February 8, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Reply
  32. Dinga Franklin Fofung

    Equality and Freedom go hand in hand. Regardless of our background. Impact your world 2012

    July 26, 2012 at 3:46 am | Reply
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