‘Sex tours’: France busts prostitution network

French police say they have broken up a network that saw Romanian prostitutes taken around French cities on so-called “sex tours”, that pulled in millions of euros for pimps.

'Sex tours': France busts prostitution network
Prostitutes were brought in from Romania for sex tours around France. Photo: AFP

Officers in France announced on Wednesday that they had made over 30 arrests in both France and Romania, after a near three-year investigation.

The pimping operation saw young women recruited in Romania and then taken over to France where they would tour numerous cities, serving clients as they went.

They were dubbed “sex tours” because the women were constantly moved around French cities for a short period of time, before going back to Romania. The tactic made it harder for police to track them down.

In teams of six they would often work out of hotels or apartments rented in the short term in cities such as Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Dijon and Bordeaux.

According to investigators the women would serve up to as many as 15 clients a day often under threat or violence.

The organised “sex tours” are seen as a relatively new form of prostitution.

Police in France were made aware of the nature of one operation when they busted a prostitution ring in Paris and realised the women had recently stayed in the cities of Rennes, Rouen and Nantes.

Investigators said each woman would normally bring in around €8,000 a month, which would be invested in property and nightclubs back in Romania.

investigators believed the pimps behind the network earned as much as €4 million in two years. 

The three people arrested in France were picked up by police in Marseille, Aix-en-Provence and Bordeaux.

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Nigerian sex traffickers jailed in France

A French court sentenced 24 members of a Lyon-based sex trafficking ring to prison terms of up to seven years for forcing Nigerian women into prostitution.

Nigerian sex traffickers jailed in France
Photos: AFP

Nearly all of the defendants were themselves Nigerian, in the latest case to highlight the growing use of African migrants in the European sex trade.

They include one of Europe's most wanted women, Jessica Edosomwan, accused of acting as a France-based “madam” to women recruited mainly in Nigeria's southern Edo State.

Edosomwan was tried in absentia.

Nigeria was the main country of origin for the tens of thousands of migrants who crossed the Mediterranean to Europe by boat in 2016 and 2017.

Many were women and girls lured to Europe with false promises of jobs as hairdressers or seamstresses, only to find themselves selling sex to repay their smugglers.

Seventeen women filed complaints against the defendants but none of the victims attended the trial, with the exception of one former sex worker who found herself in the dock for luring another woman into the trade.

The accused had faced up to 10 years' imprisonment on charges including human trafficking, pimping, money laundering and helping people live illegally in France.

Prosecutors estimated that the victims, aged 17 to 38, made up to $166 000 a month for the syndicate by selling sex in vans parked by the side of the road for as little as 10 euros.

A French mechanic who looked after the vans was among the 24 defendants.

Last year, 15 members of a Paris-based, female-led pimping ring known as the “Authentic Sisters” – many themselves former trafficking victims – were jailed for up to 11 years for forcing girls into slavery in France.

Similar gangs have also been dismantled in Italy and Britain.

The UN estimates that 80 percent of young Nigerian women arriving in Italy – usually their first port of call in Europe – are already in the clutches of prostitution networks, or quickly fall under their control.

Most of the women come from Nigeria's Benin City, a human trafficking hotbed.

Many told investigators they had taken part in “juju” or black magic rituals before leaving Nigeria, during which they had to promise to repay the money for their passage to Europe.