Spanish police smash trafficking gang that forced women to care for elderly

Police have broken up a family-run human trafficking ring that smuggled Nicaraguan women into Spain where they were forced to care for old people.

Spanish police smash trafficking gang that forced women to care for elderly

All seven members of the gang, including two sisters, were arrested during raids in Madrid and the northeastern regions of La Rioja and Huesca, the Civil Guard police force said in a statement. They all belonged to the same Nicaraguan family.   

One of the ring leaders, a 48-year-old woman, was arrested at the capital's airport as she arrived with three “victims from Nicaragua who were going to be exploited,” the statement added.

Police suspect that 50 women were brought from Nicaragua to Spain since 2016 and forced to hand over virtually all of the money they earned by looking after the elderly or seriously ill.

Relatives of the gang in Nicaragua would recruit “mainly young women with little education”, by promising them well-paid jobs in Spain.   

Once they arrived, the gang would seize the women's passports and tell them that they owed €6,000  ($6,700) for travel which had to be quickly paid back.

The women were then forced to work in private homes providing care services to clients the gang found by placing ads online.   

They were also charged inflated prices by the gang for basic goods.   

“The criminal group dominated and controlled all of its victims with constant threats, intimidation, deceptions and coercion, warning them that their relatives in Nicaragua would suffer the consequences if they reported what was happening,” the police statement said.   

The gang was believed to have earned over 750,000 euros ($840,000) by exploiting the women.

The four women and three men who were arrested face charges of human trafficking for labour exploitation, belonging to a criminal organisation and money laundering.

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Spain’s prosecutors file criminal complaint over virus care home death

Spanish prosecutors said Tuesday they have filed a criminal complaint against a Madrid care home doctor and its director over the Covid-related death of a resident, in the first such case in the capital region since the start of the pandemic

Spain's prosecutors file criminal complaint over virus care home death
Photo: AFP

Madrid's public prosecutor's office said the two women are suspected of manslaughter and denial of medical attention in relation to the death in March of a woman in her 80s who had just moved into the home.   

Madrid was one of the hardest-hit cities in Europe by the first wave of the pandemic, and the complaint is expected to be one of several alleging inadequate care at retirement homes during the period.

In a statement, the prosecutor's office said the doctor and the director of the home, who were not named, did not follow the protocol set up by the Madrid regional government for caring for residents during the pandemic.

The doctor “disregarded” the protocol and did not call a hospital about the woman, despite her worsening condition, until eight days after she began having breathing trouble.

“Despite her rapid transfer to hospital, she died the following day from cardiac arrest,” the statement said.

The care home's director “was aware of the patient's clinical situation (but) did nothing” to ensure she received health care during periods when the doctor was absent, notably on the weekend before her death, it added.   

Amnesty International warned earlier this month that conditions at elderly care homes in the Madrid region and in Catalonia remained “alarming” despite improvements.

In a sharply worded report, it said the “vast majority” of residents had not been properly cared for during the pandemic.

The measures put in place by both regions were “inefficient and inadequate” and violated the residents' rights, it said.   

Spain has been one of Europe's worst-hit countries, with the virus infecting more than 1.7 million people and causing over 48,000 deaths.

Close to half of that number are believed to be elderly people who died in homes, Amnesty said.

At the height of the first wave in March, Spanish soldiers helping to fight the pandemic found elderly patients in retirement homes abandoned and, in some cases, dead in their beds.