Sunday, 27 January 2008
A joint international investigation of “24 hours” daily and “168 hours” weekly revealed the scheme for transforming Bulgarian girls into white slaves in Italy. The investigation includes their narratives, taped in Rome, Rimini, Padua, Venice, Pescara and other places as well as opinions of ecclesiastics working with the support of Vatican and trying to save the girls. About this topic Italian and Bulgarian policemen are also talking, the Bulgarian ambassador in Rome as well and many others.
Two of the girls did not hide their names and faces, others whished to remain anonymous. Most authoritative Italian foundations have helped them to be saved and to begin a new life. They are supported also by the Italian police after they accepted to collaborate to the state. The editorial office has at its disposal audio and video tapes of our sources involved in the investigation.
This is the story of Iliana Dimitrova from Vratza town, forced by his boyfriend to become a prostitute
My name is Iliana – I was 21 years old, when they made me a prostitute. In Vratza I met one boy, an Albanian – Dragan Leskei, his friend had a Bulgarian girlfriend. For about a month they used to come to the restaurant owned by Valter Papazki and his brother Georgi – The culturist guy, where I’ve worked as a waitress. I had no problems with the brothers.
With the Albanian – talks, jokes, drinks, tips – little by little we’ve get to know each other, we become close and they started to talk over with me: come to Italy, people there are making good money. I’ve hesitated for whole one month. Then I made an international passport and get a French visa – it was easier to get visa for France. We’ve tried to enter through Slovenia – they did not permit us. But we’ve succeed through Austria though.
Dragan had told me he has a house in Rome, where I will live, till I find a work. He used to urge me to learn the language, he used to explain to me that I will take care for children or for elderly people – this will be my job. He had promised to earn up to 1000 lv per month. This is a lot of money, because I will live to his place without to pay a rent. I tempted and I left. I did not know anybody in Italy except him.
There were people in Bulgaria occupied with
the organization of the traveling
The name of the driver is Valerian. He had a Mercedes and had transported up to 3-4 persons, and charged them 450 lv each. Most recently he used to drive people towards Kolefero. To this place he had driven half of the gypsies from Liliache village, Vratza region.
Valerian had known many Bulgarians who had leaved for 5-6 years in Chikane village near Rome. They were from a village near Vratza town. I stayed to their place 2-3 hours till the Albanian came to pick me up.
I had lived with him and 3 more Albanian in his digs for a month. He had not force me to become a prostitute, he used to help me to get used with the life in Rome. But he started to become more and more jealous, he did not allow me to talk to anybody – neither to girls not to boys, he started to meddle into my life. That is why I left him and went to the Bulgarian family in Chikane.
But there were no work at all. The time has passed and they told me: we will go to one acquaintance of our – Tzvetomir, he is born in 1969, he works as a life-guard at the seaside in Tor san Lorenso.
They introduced us to each other, he was from Sofronievo village. I explained to him that I am looking for a job and asked him if he hear something that might be appropriate for me to give me a call.
After a week he called me and told me to come immediately to his place. I packed my luggage and left. Together we started to ask for a job, but all over the place we’ve received only negative responses. This lasts for three months. But he used to tell me – don’t worry, you may take whatever you want to eat and drink, you will give me back the money when you start to work. This way I lived from June to the beginning of August. We had lived in a garage near the beach; there was no warm water, nothing at all. We used to have a bath into a wash basin with a cold water admixed with a sand. After two months Tzvetomir flied into a rage: you owe me money, we have to settle the accounts with you.
Either you go to work on the street,
or I will sell you!
“How you will sell me!?”, I am telling him. “I will give you back the money, but you see what the situation is”. “I do not care”, he replies. “Either you go to work on the street, or I will sell you!” We quarreled for two days. Then he came together with Kiril, a friend of him. I knew he is dealing with prostitutes. He used to speak with a soft accent; he was not from Vratza region. They told me: “Get dressed, we are going out”.
They picked up my stuffs and we left with Kiril’s BMW. They emptied my handbag; they took my passport, everything. Yet I had no choice and they took me out on the street to work. I used to work on three places. For the first one Kilir told me that it is his region. It was located at the industrial zone of the town. They put condoms into my handbag and explained to me how much to take for an oral sex, how much for a standard one and how much for the rest of the services I would offer. The first day was very poor. The clients are clear about everything and are telling you by their own how to act. They explain to you – the other girls are doing this, the other that. This way passed my appointment with the first client.
I used to try to tell Tzvetomir that I am a human being and I am not a good for sell and that he can not be a master of me. He replied that he does not care and that he wants back his money. He told he has plans to come back to Bulgaria to open a gas station in his village and that he needs money. He used to want to earn at least 300 EURO per night and if I had not the money the problems begun.
In the beginning he used to behave comparatively well with me. Afterwards he started to make scandals each and every night and to repeat: I do not like this, we have to do this thing this way, I want to show me how you used to do it with this client, with the other client and so on. Then he started to make rows for the money, why I earned so little.
He forced me to write down the registration numbers of the clients, how old they are, what exactly they’ve told me. He used to order me before to enter into the client’s car to put on my mobile phone and to come to save me if something happens.
What he possible could do! I am all alone, but he is 30 km away. The first month I used to go to work from 2 p.m. till 6 p.m. After we’ve changed the place – we went towards Ostia. There I worked during the nights, because during the daytime
The black prostitutes were on the streets
And they’ve wanted to beat us
But they are real savages! Tzvetomir found some Romanian friends, one Romanian girls used to work for them, she do it because she wanted to, she was a little bit crazy.
They robbed me on the first week, The Italian guys were doped. One of them was like a skeleton, he pretended as if he wanted to hire me. He took me to some place with the car and there another man appeared and pulled out a knife. The one on one of my side another on the other side and both started to shout at me: Give us the hand bag! I shout: No! Then he stabs me in the leg. He cut the handle of the bag and kicked me.
I had all kinds of clients, among them there were perverts as well. One wanted to make a pee into his mouth. Other had bold heads, all covered with tattoos. Once I went with one of these and in the beginning he seemed normal to me. Then he started to speak, to explain how it was in the prison, how he has killed people – it was terrible!
The Romanians carried us out with the car. In Ostia on the street have worked Romanian girls, girls from Spain, black women – it was very hard to find a place, they chase us away all the time. We’ve managed to get along with the other prostitutes, despite they’ve fall upon to beat us. We used to tell them – however we will be beaten either by you or by the pimps, we make no difference. So, please leave us in peace.
Tzvetomir and the Romanian have passed constantly and if we were not at the specific place – they beat the life out of us. We used to work near Ostia – right in front of the sea there is a big pine wood,
the place is called
It was terrible! Toped and drug addicted used to come, they made a lot of problems, because they could not finish fast.
They used to stay in the car longer and I had to concoct something to tell Tzvetomir. For not beat me I used to lie him – I used to tell him that I’ve forgot to dial him or the line has broken down, but everything was useless.
Even though he personally forced me to become a prostitute he treated me as we were boyfriends, he used to introduce me to his friends. He started to get drunk and started to attack me with questions: Why you passed with this guy 30 seconds more and something like this. Do you know that if you’ve been back to your place earlier you could get at least one more client.
I was a prostitute for several months and then I met one Italian, a client of mine. He asked for my telephone number and he wanted to go out together for a pizza, to a hotel. After I used to go out with him I did not want to be with other clients. And I used to lie Tzvetomir, that the day has been poor. The Italian used to give me more money, but I used to refuse them, because I had not any way to justify this money. When Tzmetomir found the money he started to beat me. This was the reason why the Italian used to bring me coca-cola, cigarettes, something to eat – 2-3 times a week. I used to hide them into a safety place in the wood.
The break of the camel’s back came
On New Year’s Day
We used to celebrate at Tzvetomir’s friend. There were other prostitutes as well. The men get drunk and ordered us to make them strip-tease. They used to applaud us and to put money into our underwear. At down together with Tzvetomir we came back to the garage where we used to live. I poured cold water into the wash basin and started to take a bath. All of a sudden Tzvetomir rushed and roared: “Why you take off your clothes?” I shrink back into the corner of the garage. He started to jostle me with fists on my head; he used to kick me in the stomach. It lasted about an hour, but finally I managed to pluck out of him. I grab a glass and throw it into the wall. With a peace of glass I cut my veins and blood spilled all over the place. Tzvetomir step back and suddenly he became gentler. On the other day he gave me as a present a gold bracelet. This was the first time he called me “lady”. But later he added the price of the bracelet to my debt to him. And soon after this everything started from the very beginning.
Tzvetomir stated to Iliana she owes him 1000 lv. and will work for him till she pays her debt.
He takes her all the money. They go our together for shopping – they buy everything they need for the house, drinks, cigarettes and everything he wants. This expenses though he adds to Iliana’s debt.
(Cvetomir is in the center, on the left of Iliana)
This way she gives him back the money but at the same time her debt enrages.
“In a certain moment it made no difference for me. No matter how much money I used to earn my debt used to become bigger and he used to beat me each and every night.”, the girls recalls. Then the Italian client who is in love with her decides to help her. After the end of one of their meetings, with a SMS he invites her to go out together for a pizza. She hides the messaged from Tzvetomir, because he is drunk again and he will beat her. But she forgets to delete the message – in the morning he founds it and make a big scandal. The day after he expects her to come back from work and again is very drunk. She goes to bed and at one time
he wakes her up
with a fists in her head.
He cracks her ear-drum.
“You will not go to emergency aid; you will not go to work.” He shouts. He keeps her cooped up for two days and on the third day he sends her at the street. “How to go out, it is so cold out there, it is February; the ear hurts me a lot?”, Iliana cries. “I do not care”, Tzvetomir shouts. At the street she gets a client and asks him to give her a ride to the hospital. She calls Tzvetomir from the hospital to tell him she does not give him away. She lies to the doctors she had some fight with a gipsy woman.
She comes back and Tzvetomir does not strike at her for a week. Then he starts to beat her again. Bulgarians from Chikane village call and just because she has spoke with them Tzvetomir slaps her twice very hard.
“I am leaving!”, she decides firmly.
“You can’t”, he shouts. When he understands that she is unflagging he throws her away without a phone, without anything. She calls the police from a telephone booth. They come and she explains to them that she had broken with her boyfriend and she does not want to come back to him but he does not give her back her cloths. She
still does not want to
make a complaint
against Tzvetomir after he forced her to be a prostitute.
The police take his data and worn him to leave her in peace.
They tell him that if she does not call them by 24 hours, they will arrest him. Iliana explains them that she has a daughter in Bulgaria and that he threatens her using this fact. Tzvetomir used to tell her that if she gives him away to the police, he will send people to kidnap her daughter and to sell or kill her. The child by that time is 6 years old.
“I did not gave him away, but said that we’ve quarreled and I want to leave him”, Iliana tells.
She takes the bus to Rome. She calls her Italian friend. He accommodates her into a boarding-house, he gives her money, and they together are looking for a job. Later
He rents a house near by Rome
and they start to live together
He is about 40-years old, married man. A month later he gives her money and helped her to obtain a permit to enter her native country Bulgaria. Iliana goes back to Vratza, she issues a passport of her daughter and takes her to Rome.
She lives with the Italian about one month more, and then he goes back to his wife. Meanwhile he has arranged with the assistance of his friends from the police Iliana to make a complaint against Tzvetomir. She brings the policemen to the places where she has worked as a prostitute. But Tzvetomir has changed his lodging and has found Iliana’s new telephone number. He calls her and convinces her to come back to him. Iliana pretends she is prone to do this and pumps information out of him about the place where she can find him. She determines his new address and informs the police.
After her departure Tzvetomir
has taken three new
girls to work for him.
They live in a rented house in Tor san Lorentzo. He is arrested at the same place. One of the girls reconfirms Iliana’s testimonies that Tzvetomir has threatened her in the same way as Ilaia. He is detained for 6 months. “After he is out on bail after one Bulgarian guy pays for him. This is the same Violin who regularly drives a bus from Bulgaria to Rome”, Iliana says.
For six months period she is put in an asylum with nuns, but she had a row with the supervisor. She wants to take her away her child on the ground of she does not cares for her daughter. They expel her and call to other asylums not to accept her, because she provokes problems. But sister Ester from “Karitas” takes her and 6 months Iliana lives in her asylum. They become friends. Afterwards Iliana succeeds to rent a municipality home.
She works at two places as a cleaning lady and an ironer
at the first one till 2 p.m. but the second from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. She walks around the congested Roma streets with her motor bike, a present from her Italian friend. She already leaves together with her daughter, mother and her little brother. She thinks Tzvetomir lives in piece in Tor San Torino, he has changed the lodgings and drives VW Golf. She has seen him once at the square in front of Termini station; she passed by him on her motor bike.
“I am afraid of him, but not during the day – he could not dare to teach me. The six months in prison are not enough for him, he has to pass through all this that I was forced to do”, the girl says with tear drops in her eyes.
The Italian madam
“Tzvetomir and Kiril used to know one Italian woman, that had brothels in Tor san Lorentzo. Her name is Marina D.”, Iliana tells.
Marina had had connections with policemen and if some verification starts she always been warned. Then only one girl used to go out of the brothel together with her and she has presented her as a maid. Marina has owned 3 houses with at least 3 girls in each one of the houses. Kiril had two of them – Sylvia and Ivka, the third one has worked for the Italian woman.
“Unexpectedly the one of the Kiril’s girl disappeared – she went out on the evening and we never saw her again. Kiril tried to find her, but without a success.”, Iliana Says. The other girls had been Kiril’s mistress as well. He had connection with the Bulgarian force groups – they’ve constantly came to his place. They’ve bring him some little machines thanks to which he could earn money out of the poker automated machines. All day long Kiril was occupied with this – he used to go from one hall to another.
“I was against to work into the house, although it was an oasis of vegetation. There were rumors that clients with sexual perversion are tying the girls to the chairs, gag their mouths and start to mock at them. Even Madam Marina was tortured and
humiliated this way.”, Iliana says.
The houses were under the control of another Italian woman, Adriana, she is approximately 50 years old. She had drove Hyundai with leather damask. “As you see her you could never imagine she is dealing with prostitutes. She had a lot of money. They were very close with Kiril’s girlfriend, they used to go for shopping and bars together.”, Iliana recalls. Afterwards Kilir’s girlfriend also became Madam and other girls started to work for her and used to compete Adriana’s business. Soon after they quarreled and started a war for clients.
They kill the girls
and cut them with knives
Sister Ester since 8 years is a chief of International department of “Caritas”, an organization that supports the victims of traffic with people.
The asylum that she is in charge of have been opened 4 years ago. Sister Ester arranged the visit with Iliana whom they’ve helped to come back to the normal life.
- Sister Ester, which one of the girls you are taking care of is the most affected by the pimps?
- One was coop up in one apartment for 7 long months. The apartment was with shutters, she has lived in artificial light – this has been the place where she has served her clients. They locked her during the night and they have carried her products to cook herself. For this 7 month period she has leaved the apartment only twice.
- How she was saved?
- She has become pregnant, the pimp has not locked her one night and she managed to escape. She has read a tall free number in the metro station for assistance of the victims of trafficking with people. She was ruined – physically and mentally, she has been convinced that her life will be over in that apartment.
- Was she beaten black and blue?
- No, she was not, but one of the girls was covered all over her body with razors as a punishment. Another one was with dislocated shoulder, third one was lost three teeth and her palm was cut very bad.
- Is always the violence the reason why the girls are running away?
- One girl was escaped because the pimps have given her too little money in comparison with what she has earned.
- How much?
- They have given her 2000 EURO monthly, but she has earned 300-400 EURO per day. She lives with us at the moment.
- What is the situation after the changes adopted in the Italian legislation?
- The last change in the law imposed shifting of the girls from the streets to apartments. This is even more dangerous for them, because diminishes their chances to communicate with other people and to be saved.
- Where in Rome are located these apartments?
- At almost every cross-street at the ring road.
- Are there cases girls to refuse to be prostitutes any more because they’ve fallen in love and had had an affair?
- Yes, an Italian came once in “Caritas” and he wanted to help him to save one girl. She has refused to testify against her pimps, because among them there were members of her family. Later the girl and the Italian man get married and now they have two wonderful children and I am their godmother.
- Did some of the girls try to kill themselves?
- Yes, one Ukrainian girl was lost all her humanity. She was into a deep depression, she used to refuse to rise from the bed, we hardly have convinced her to eat something. She passed in this condition about 20 days, afterwards little by little she started to recover herself.
- How the pimps control the girls?
- They raped them at their arrival, afterwards they threaten and beat them. In addition they tell them that they will force their sisters to become prostitutes also, that members of their families will be beaten or directly liquidated.
- Are the pimps dangerous?
- It happens to kill the prostitutes who have testified against them, or to sell their children.
- Who are the cruelest?
- The Albanians, but recently the Romanian as well. But nobody is as cruel as the Albanians. But we have to remind – they are supported by the Italians.
- Are the pimps participants of the organized criminality?
- All this is part of a huge organization. Some are responsible for the deliveries of fresh bodies, others forced them to work here. There are many different chains, this business is not under the supervision of one and the same people, and there are many people of different nationalities involved in this. There are Bulgarians, Italians also. The route of the traffic is changing all the time – once it may pass through Bulgaria, other time through some other place.
- Does the policemen help the pimps sometimes?
- No, but there is one policeman who has taken advantage of the services the girls for free of course.
In Sofronievo village they know
That Tzvetomir have been arrested
“Yes. There were such rumors in the village about Tzvetomir – that he has been put in Italian jail and they’ve detained him because he forced girls to become prostitutes”, Anatoli Angelov mayor of Sofronievo village says.
He also states Tzvetomir’s parents are divorced and his mother has married for second time. His father all day walks around the village with his horse and his cart and is looking for some work. Tzvetomir’s brother Hrisim is doing the same before to go off somewhere in Sofia.
The father has earned some money, he has been ready to do the work for a bottle of wine or brandy. “Hard-working people, they use to drink, but they are quiet and do not make problems.”, the mayor claims.
70-80 people have left Sofronievo and now are in Italy. The mayor had not heart among the women from his village to have prostitutes. Most of the people who have left were over 45-years old, and they left to Italy to look after elderly people.
Before to leave, Tzvetomir had had several long lasting relationships in the village. For a long time he has lived in his father’s house with the legal adviser of the Kozlodui Atomical Electric plant. He has been very close also with a woman from the village – Marieta. He is still in contact with her and they are friends.
She is married to an Italian
and most of her time she spends in Italy.
After Tzvetomir’s arrest she has driven his father to visit him after he was release from jail. Marieta’s house is close to the gas station on the main road to Vratza, the neighbors say.
We are welcomed by a teenager over there, who introduces himself as a big friend of Tzvetomir and obviously he is ready to tell us good things about him.
In that moment Marieta proper comes, she appears to be his mother. She comes with a car, accompanied by her husband with a thick gold chain on his neck.
The woman is also ready to talk about Tzvetomir, as well as to have photos, but her husband warns her not to do this. But yet she states Tzvetomir is a very good boy and he has never been occupied with bending someone to be a prostitute. She is convinced that he has been get into a hot water by Iliana, who was jealous and was mad about the fact he do not want to be with her.
According to Marieta and the man who refuses to introduce himself, Iliana has prostituted in secret and when Tzvetomir has known about this he has driven her away. “Iliana was a true prostitute yet in Bulgaria before to leave to Italy”, the man declares. He claims she first has worked for the Albanians and after they’ve driven her away she has been in a very hard situation. Tzvetomir has taken pity on her and has taken her from the street, but she has made him this dirty trick, he claims. The man though rejects to declare this officially.
According to him many other girls have lived at Tzvetomir’s place in Italy, but none one of them was forced to become a prostitute.
Tzvetomir’s father, who appears with his cart and starts to work at Marieta’s yard – they are really close. The man does not like to talk a lot – he hardy manages to say that he has been in Italy and has seen his sons, who “used to go to some people to sign some papers”. Marieta and the man explain that Tzvetomir is obliged to go every day to the police to sign. They do not think he will be putted into prison. They are accepting to resent our number to him and to call us in the editorial office in order to write his opinion.
Tzvetomir did not want to call.
According to non-official information he is sentenced by a court of the first instance and now he appeals. According to the Italian law for inclining to a prostitution and violence the punishment is between 6 and 10 years.
Russians and Albanians
are controlling the business
The body business in Italy is under the control of the Russian and the Albanian mafia. The Albanians are even more powerful after they’ve taken the place of the Turkish groups in the drug market. They are working together with the Italian organized criminality. The Bulgarian criminal groups have some misunderstanding with the Albanians.
These disputes are founding expression in trashes of Bulgarian pimps and prostitutes. It is a common practice the Albanian pimps pull Bulgarian girls and they force them to work for the Albanians. This is the reason why the Bulgarian pimps pay them some kind of tax voluntary.
The Romanian mafia also manages their prostitutes and is in a dispute for the leading role with the Albanians. The Bulgarians often come into unions with Albanian and Romanians in the traffic of prostitutes also through Kosovo, Tirana and Bucharest.
Italy is the headquarters of the Nigerian groups that also have serious interests in the trade with fresh bodies. Apart of the street business with fake branded glasses, hand bags, watches and accessories they are controlling also the black skin seductresses at the street that offer the lowest prices of sex services. Tangible presences in this business have also the Russians, Ukrainians and Moldavians mafia guys. The Russian mafia in Italy is in charge of more serious deeds as money laundry.
They brush the girls
like a street rubbish
In January 2002 Silvio Berluskoni proposes brothels to be opened, banned with a law since 1958 under pressure of Vatican. The public indignation explodes the campaign “Clean hands” starts against the prostitutes who sweep over the streets. The police make dozens of arrests of pimps and trafficants.
The native town of Frederico Felini,
is the hottest spot of the prostitution in Italy at that time. Over 4000 hotels are full of tourists. It swarms with East-European bands. “The first mass actions against prostitutes start in Rimini and Bolognia”, the deputy police chief in Rimini,
Richo Sabato recalls.
“We detained 800 prostitute from Nigeria, Albania, Bulgaria, Moldova, Russia. We arrested and put in jail 650 pimps”.
During these actions hundreds of girls start to talk. Over 30 organizations are taking care for their saving. “We used to hide them in communes”, Djanpietro from “Papa Ioan XXIII” tells. That organization has saved more than 4000 girls. Many other new girls start to come some of them used to pretend to repent. “We’ve disclosed that parts of them are spying for the pimps”, he recalls.
The police start to chase Bulgarian pimps
In 2001 the police in Modena arrests 36 Albanians accuse of exploitation of girls from Eastern Europe. The net is active in Torino, Bolognia, Ferara and Mantua. Among the victims there are also Bulgarians, driven by Bulgarian trafficants. In Torino a band of four Bulgarians is revealed. They’ve attracted girls from Sofia, Sandanski and other towns by promising them legal work. In March 2002 39-years old Bulgarian girl complains to the police that she has been kidnapped and has been forced to prostitute by another Bulgarian girl and two Albanians. During the investigation it becomes clear that the channel is ruled by VIS force group from Plovdiv.
In May 2003 the cops arrest at the street in the exotic sea resort Peskara a Bulgarian prostitute without documents.
The police “release” the girl under observation. Soon they reveal that Plovdiv group of pimps and trafficants regularly are replenishing the streets with new prostitutes. After one-year work the police arrest 5 Bulgarian pimps and 15 girls, offering their bodies at “Ponte Lingo’s” sea side street. After the operation they start to track out 13 more Bulgarian, tangled into the pimp’s devil-fish. Part of them is unapproachable.
One more girl
is ready to leave
For just 5 minutes not far away from Vratza “24 hours” daily representative almost persuaded a street girl to be driven to work in Italy and taped the incident with a hidden camera.
The prostitute explained that she blows for 15 levas but the standard sex is 20 levas. Prior she has worked for bigger amounts abroad. There she has earned 70 levas for blowing and 100 EURO for full service.
She has come back because her pimp did not pay her. The girl ponders over our proposition to drive her to work in Italy. She was ready to give her answer on the next day. The editorial office has a videotape.
The investigation is realized with the assistance of the Danish Organization of the Investigational Journalists. Read in the next issues the stories of other Bulgarian girls, forced to be prostitutes, as well as details about mafia nets in Bulgaria and Italy.
Bulgarian Investigative Journalism Center (BIJC) is an nongovernmental and uncommercial foundation, whose main goal is to organize and produce journalistic inquiries against the corruption and the organised crime. BIJC popularize the investigative journalism in Bulgaria and in the European Union.The foundation unites bulgarian journalists with experience in the area of the investigative journalism.