‘Barcode pimps’ beat and starved victims

MADRID police dismantled two Rumanian prostitution gangs which tattooed bar codes on prostitutes wrists, officials said.

As well as making 22 arrests, including two gang leaders, police freed a Rumanian girl of 19 who was whipped, beaten and starved after trying to escape.

Her hair and eyebrows had been shaved and she was branded with a barcode tattoo and the amount of her debt, €2,000.

The vice rings forced women to work on the Marconi industrial estate in Villaverde as well as Calle Montera where prostitutes have traditionally solicited for generations.

They also controlled prostitution in clip-joints and girlie clubs as well as private apartments where the women were immediately forced to hand over their earnings to watchful gang members.

“No woman ought to be forced into prostitution and the pimps should get what’s coming to them,” said one young Rumanian girl, a streetwalker in Calle Montera who had heard about the tattooed girl.

“She worked on the Marconi estate not here, though,” she told Spain’s ABC newspaper.

“Those of us here in the daytime do it of our own accord,” she maintained. “It’s different at night. You should come here at night, because things seem to be done differently then.”

“I’ve worked here for six years and never had a pimp,” said another girl. When Marconi and the girls working there were mentioned, she replied amiably but guardedly, “That’s different.” Still on Calle Montera, another two girls insisted to ABC that they were there voluntarily.

They, too, knew about the tattooed girl but said they never went out to Villaverde.

“Although they say the work is good there,” they added. Asked if they knew Dorel and Arturo, two arrested “capos” who controlled the Marconi estate, one said she knew Arturo. “He’s a good guy,” she said. “He doesn’t behave badly.”

By Linda Hall

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