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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 January 2007, 15:16 GMT
Italy smashes prostitution ring
Prostitute, Italy
Many of the trafficked women are from Eastern Europe
Police have arrested almost 800 people involved in a vast people-trafficking and prostitution network which operated across Italy.

Forty-five trafficked women, many of them forced to work as prostitutes on arrival in Italy, had collaborated in the investigation, police said.

Those accused of trafficking were from Eastern Europe and Africa, police said.

The arrests took place over a four-month period and were part of an operation known as "Spartacus".

"There is no single kingpin but various organisations, some of which are family-based in character," police chief Gilberto Caldarozzi said of the network.

'Ignoble crime'

He said the operation had been codenamed Spartacus because its aim was to "free immigrants who are forced into slavery as soon as they arrive in Italy".

Cases included that of a 16-year-old Eastern European girl based in the southern province of Reggio Calabria who was denied an abortion and forced to prostitute herself into her sixth month of pregnancy.

Interior Minister Giuliano Amato said human trafficking was "one of the most ignoble crimes".

Police also took over 22 buildings as part of the swoop, three of which were being used as sweat shops.

Four nightclubs were also among the buildings closed as a result of the operation.

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