The National Police have arrested 22 people in Palma in connection with human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation.

Those detained as part of "Operación Sileño" are aged between 21 and 51 and are from Brazil, Bulgaria, Colombia, Italy and Portugal as well as Spain. They have been charged with various other offences - facilitating illegal immigration, denying the rights of workers, belonging to a criminal organisation, and the production of drugs (offence against public health).

In November last year, two people went to the National Police and reported that a an apartment in Palma was being used for prostitution, that women and transexuals had been tricked into engaging in prostitution and that payment of debts of up to 14,000 euros were being demanded of them. The police immediately activated procedures for a suspected case of human trafficking.

The victims were held in the apartment and were expected to be available 20 hours a day for clients, six days a week. They had Sundays off. The conditions were very poor. Five were sharing one room in which there were four bunks and a sofa. Ten victims in all have been identified.

The trick was a familiar one: promise of work that didn't exist, supposed debts that had to be paid off through prostitution, threats made using witchcraft rituals and black magic. The victims in this instance were all from Brazil.

During police raids, some 200 marijuana plants were found. They were being grown with the assistance of high-powered lights powered by a fraudulent connection to the electricity network. Police also identified a lawyer who was involved in arranging fictitious marriages between EU citizens and illegal immigrants and charging 5,000 euros per marriage.