HomeWorldUnder-age mafia prostitution ring busted in Italy

Under-age mafia prostitution ring busted in Italy


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Italian investigators have uncovered a prostitution racket in which 16-year-old schoolgirls had sex with businessmen and mafia gangsters in exchange for cash payments, stays in five-star hotels and Champagne dinners.

The schoolgirls charged up to €500 for sex in a well-organised racket in Bari in Puglia, the southern region where world leaders including Rishi Sunak and Joe Biden will gather next month for a G7 summit.

They mixed with members of the local underworld, including the son of a mafia boss who was shot dead last year, before the network was exposed when parents of the girls found their purses stuffed with money.

“I found my daughter’s handbag open and I looked inside. There was a purse crammed with €50 banknotes,” the mother of one of the teenagers told police.

‘We told them we were under-age. They liked that’

Eight people have been arrested, including four men and women accused of profiting from the prostitution and two of the girls’ clients, both in their forties.

While the age of consent in Italy is 14, sex with a prostitute is only legal if she is over the age of 18.

“We told [the clients] we were under-age and they really liked that,” one girl told police.

Prosecutors said the network in the city, in the southern region of Puglia, had been facilitated by the “uncontrolled” nature of social media, which enabled the teenagers to advertise their services and arrange meetings.

One girl was given a gold credit card by one of her clients and told not to spend more than €20,000 a month – but then found the PIN he had given her did not work.

The teenagers, who called themselves “the squad girls”, were taken to the clients in luxury hotels and resorts in a racket that was organised with “scientific precision”, according to investigators.

Social media is ‘a shop window’

When one girl tried to give up prostitution, she was threatened by one of the pimps, who said he would publish compromising photographs of her online.

It was a “bleak and deeply concerning network of under-age prostitution, managed and organised at a sophisticated level,” investigators said.

“Social media provides a shop window for the sex market in a way which makes it ever harder for families to control,” said Ciro Angelillis, a prosecutor involved in the investigation.

In Italy, a teenage girl who offers sex for payment is known as a “baby squillo”, with “baby” denoting her young age and “squillo” being slang for prostitute.

A decade ago, a similar network of schoolgirl prostitutes, many of them from wealthy middle-class families, was discovered in Rome. It inspired an Italian Netflix series called Baby.

The G7 summit of world leaders will take place in mid-June in a luxury resort called Borgo Egnazia, which is 35 miles south of Bari.

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