Italian police arrest dozens of members of Nigerian mafia in major bust

Nick Squires
·1-min read
The groups traffic Nigerian women to Italy and force them to work as prostitutes - Carabinieri
The groups traffic Nigerian women to Italy and force them to work as prostitutes - Carabinieri

Italian police have arrested dozens of alleged members of a notorious Nigerian mafia group called the Vikings.

The Vikings, one of several Nigerian organised crime groups active in Italy, is involved in drug dealing and prostitution.

Around 200 police officers arrested alleged members of the gang in Turin and Ferrara, a city in the northern region of Emilia-Romagna.

Among those arrested was Emmanuel Okenwa, a 50-year-old DJ nicknamed Boogye.

Mr Okenwa was arrested by undercover officers in the city of Verona as he prepared to flee the country, police said.

The Vikings were planning to "violently annihilate" other Nigerian crime gangs, according to Gianluca Petragnani Gelosi, an investigating judge.

Rival groups include the Maphites, the Eiye and the Black Axe, all of them largely composed of Nigerian immigrants.

Gang members have names such as “Strike chief”, “Executional” and “Arkman”.

Each group demands a cult-like loyalty from its followers and subjects new members to initiation rites.

Trafficking Nigerian women to Italy to become street prostitutes is one of their most lucrative criminal activities.

Women and girls – some as young as 14 - are lured to Italy with the offer of jobs as hairdressers, beauticians and baby sitters, only to end up as sex slaves.

The UN migration agency estimates that 80 per cent of Nigerian women who come to Italy are victims of sex trafficking.

Many of the women are forced to undergo voodoo-style religious rituals in which they are told they or their families will be harmed if they try to escape the sex trade.

It is common to see young Nigerian women touting for business along busy roads in Italy, especially during the summer.