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Monday, 9 April, 2001, 12:33 GMT 13:33 UK
Italian police bust sex slave ring
Forced prostitutes
Women forced into prostitution through drugs and violence
Italian police have arrested more than 100 people in an operation to break up an international prostitution ring run by the Italian Mafia and eastern European gangs.

The suspects - most of reported to be them Albanian - are alleged to have forced hundreds of young women from South America, Albania and eastern Europe into prostitution.

The public prosecutor's office in the central city of Perugia - which ordered the operation - said suspects were charged with homicide, membership of organised crime groups, trafficking in drugs and people and extortion.

Some of the women are alleged to have been raped and drugged, and others killed for refusing to work as sex slaves.

Million-dollar business

Italian media reported the women were smuggled into country illegally by boat and raped during the journey.

They were then forced to prostitute themselves on the street or in night clubs.

Those who tried to resist were drugged and beaten. Two girls from Russia and Poland are said to have been killed for refusing to prostitute themselves.

The authorities estimate the prostitution ring made about $1m a month.

The network was divided into cells distributed across Italy and operated much like the Italian Mafia, according to press reports.

Sex cruises

In a separate case, 11 people were arrested for running sex cruises with young eastern European women between the Italian mainland and the islands of Sardinia and Elba.

The women were said to have entered Italy illegally and, after being made to work in night clubs, were offered to potential clients over the internet.

It is estimated that there are more than 40,000 foreign prostitutes on the streets of Italy - most of them are believed to be controlled by Albanian gangsters.

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08 Mar 01 | Europe
EU 'to protect' sex slaves
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