Spanish police said Wednesday they had rescued 15 young Brazilian transsexuals from a sex trafficking ring that forced them into prostitution by beating and threatening them with black magic.
The operation led to the arrest of 13 people across the country suspected of running the ring, as well as the seizure from three apartments in the southeastern city of Murcia of objects used "to coerce" victims, police said in a statement.
These included items related to black magic and the ritual-filled Santeria religion.
"The criminal group was headed by a Brazilian national, who from Spain and with the aid of associates, recruited youths in Brazil who were in a precarious economic condition. They were then tricked into coming to Spain," it said.
Police said the gang forced its victims into prostitution, made them consume and sell drugs and sometimes locked them up in the flat where they "faced continued threats and even physical beatings".
The authorities began their investigation after one of the victims filed a complaint at a police station in Murcia.
The 13 suspects who were arrested are between the ages of 19 and 60. They include nationals from Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Romania and Spain.
Four of the suspects have been jailed as the investigation continues, while the rest were released on bail.