One of the fastest growing criminal networks in Europe is now the Nigerian mafia, which is spreading its criminal activities across the continent. It consists of rival groups such as Black Axe, Vikings and Maphite. Most recently, authorities in Italy, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Malta conducted an international operation directed at two of the major Nigerian mafia groups. Police accused the gangs of human-trafficking, drug trafficking, robbery, extortion, sexual violence and prostitution.
According to a June 2019 report by the Washington Post on the Nigerian mafia in Italy:
“They hold territory from the north in Turin to the south in Palermo. They smuggle drugs and traffic women, deploying them as prostitutes on Italy’s streets. They find new members among the caste of wayward migrants, illicitly recruiting at Italian government-run asylum centers.”
The Nigerian mafia, according to the report, is “trafficking women by the tens of thousands”. Italian intelligence has named the group “the most structured and dynamic” of any foreign crime entity operating in Italy, according to the Washington Post.
“Some experts say that as many as 20,000 Nigerian women, some of them minors, arrived in Sicily between 2016 and 2018, trafficked in cooperation with Nigerians in Italy and back home.”
It is no wonder that the Nigerian group has become so prominent in Italy: the country has been one of Europe’s front doors for migrants entering Europe.
What distinguishes the Nigerian crime networks is their severe brutality — Italian police have described them as using “urban guerilla warfare” to hold on to territory in Italy — and their use of voodoo rituals. According to a July 2017 report by the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM), sex trafficked victims give an oath “sealed with a voodoo ritual or a rite of initiation (the victim is committed to honouring her agreement)” to their traffickers and also harbor “a fear of retaliation by traffickers on the victim’s family members back in their country of origin”.
According to the 2017 IOM report:
“Over the past three years,