Colombian authorities bust sickening child sex ring
PROJECT FUTURES hope to bring an end to human trafficking around the globe. Courtesy: Project Futures/Youtube
Police arrested 18 people in the major sting. Picture: CEN/australscopeSource:australscope
A DISTURBING child prostitution ring in which more than 250 young women and girls were branded with tattoos by their âownersâ has been busted in dramatic raids over the past week.
Colombian cops have now arrested 18 people â" including Liliana del Carmen Campos Puello who is known as âMadameâ â" were charged with t he sexual exploitation of more than 250 women and girls.
The glamorous alleged ringleader, who has been pictured showing off huge wads of cash and posing in a bikini on luxury yachts, is said to have run the sick operation along with several unnamed Israelis in the popular Colombian resort of Cartagena.
The Colombian attorney generalâs office alleges that the young girls and women were lured to the resort under the pretence of working as models there.
The unnamed ring of leaders allegedly raped and tattooed all their victims, aged between 14 and 17 years old. Ms Campos Puello allegedly found the girls who were living in poor neighbourhoods in Colombia and Venezuela.
Alleged ringleader âMadameâ Campos Puello. Picture: CEN/australscopeSource:australscope
Ms Campos Puello pictured with wads of cash. Picture: CEN/australscopeSource:australscope
Traffickers allegedly preyed on girls and women living in Cartagenaâs slums, promising them jobs and offering to arrange their passports and visas.
âWhen the victims arrived to the country where they hoped to work, they came across a very different reality,â the Attorney-Generalâs office said. âThey were stripped of their documents, locked up and exploited sexually.â
Once they were trapped, raped and branded, the girls were showcased in catalogues and forced to attend sick sex parties in hotels and on luxury yachts.
Colombian police allege Ms Campos Puello introduced the girls to the clients and, before each event, she would always select the best-suited girls from the ringâs list.
Following th e dramatic arrests over the weekend, Colombiaâs President-elect Ivan Duque has pledged to step up efforts to fight sex trafficking in Cartagena â" which is massively popular with tourists.
The ring is said to have enslaved over 250 girls. Picture: CEN/australscopeSource:australscope
Ms Campos Puello is among those charged. Picture: CEN/australscopeSource:australscope
Those arrested over the weekend include foreigners, hotel owners, policemen and a navy captain.
Charges include recruiting and selling girls aged 14 to 17 into the sex trade in Cartagena and abroad, and forcing them to have sex with locals and t ourists.
Cartagena, on the countryâs Caribbean coast, attracts hundreds of thousands of foreign tourists a year to visit its colonial-era ramparts and squares.
However, the three-day sting operation, which ended on Sunday, has also exposed rampant child sex abuse.
âWe will not allow Cartagena to become a sexual tourism destination,â Mr Duque tweeted on Monday, promising to âattack human trafficking and the exploitation of women in our cities and tourist destinations.â
In separate tweets, Mr Duque, who takes over the presidency on August 7, said those found guilty should receive the maximum prison sentences possible â" up to 40 years â" to help prevent such âatrociousâ crimes from recurring.
âMadameâ Campos Puello is said to have hired the girls from poor neighbourhoods in Columbia and Venezuela before forcing them into prostitution. Picture: CEN/australscopeSource:australscope
Over six months leading up to the bust, police and prosecutors collected evidence using hidden cameras in tourist areas, including hotels, squares and streets.
In a statement, the Attorney-Generalâs office described the victims as âreal slaves of the 21st centuryâ.
Prosecutors are also investigating the âabhorrentâ case of a navy captain who, they alleged, had accepted the charges against him.
âThere is abundant evidence that indicates that he located girls under the age of 14 on social networks, abused them, bought their silence, and ordered them to tattoo his name on parts of their bodies,â the Attorney-Generalâs office said.
With over 20,000 chi ld sex criminals in Australia, there are strong calls for a public sex offenders register to be introduced.
â" With wiresSource: Google News Colombia | Netizen 24 Colombia