Nigerians are black

The Black Ax: That's how dangerous the Nigerian Mafia is in Germany

In Germany, too, brotherhoods of the Nigerian Mafia such as "Die Schwarze Axt" are surprisingly well networked. How could it possibly come this far? What are the dangers? An exciting documentary on ZDFinfo examines these questions.

They have long since arrived in Italy: since the 1980s, the Nigerian mafia has been involved in numerous criminal activities, from drug trafficking to internet crime to human trafficking, especially near Naples. But even in Germany, secret brotherhoods like "Die Schwarze Axt" are increasingly gaining a foothold. The scams they use and what makes their actions so dangerous is shown in the impressive documentary "The Black Ax - Nigeria's Mafia in Germany" on Thursday, January 28th at 8:15 pm on ZDFinfo.

The filmmakers Jan-Philipp Scholz and Johan von Mirbach went on a search for their 45-minute film: They spoke to victims, investigators and dropouts, but also to an active gang member. It was a dangerous undertaking: During their research in Lagos, the film team itself was threatened by supporters of the group. The result is all the more shocking and touching.

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The "Black Ax", as one learns in the film, was founded in 1977 as a secret student brotherhood in Nigeria. At first it rebelled against the ruling dictatorship, but it was soon infiltrated by drug smugglers and other criminals. Today is strictly hierarchical and incredibly well networked.

Young women are forced into prostitution

Its main business is human trafficking and forced prostitution. Its victims are mainly young Nigerian women who are being smuggled via Libya to Europe in search of a better life. Once there, as explained in the article, they have to pay off their debts totaling tens of thousands of euros. If they refuse or flee, they are persecuted, beaten or raped by the brotherhood. Often times, the criminals threaten their families at home. Sometimes they are even killed.

Two of these women found the filmmakers and asked them in front of the camera: "My life was pure torture," reports a woman who calls herself Preciosa. She was treated like a slave and received orders from morning to night. Theresa had a similar experience, who was only free when she fully paid off the madame for whom she went to work. Today she advises the girls from her homeland: "You must not give up your freedom, otherwise you will remain in this slavery."

According to the filmmaker's research, there are now more than 50 secret societies, similar to the "Black Ax", in Europe. In total, the Brotherhood of the "Black Ax" has tens of thousands of members. Against this background, it is all the more surprising that the group remained undetected in Germany for a long time: until a few years ago, a Wiesbaden BKA employee explained that he had not heard of it.

And even today, investigators like Uli Derks from the Bochum police force have a hard time: A few years ago his team uncovered one of the largest human trafficking networks in Germany. At the end of 2016, six Nigerians were sentenced to several years in prison. Nevertheless, he also encountered resistance in his own house, recalls Derks. Basically, he says in the documentary, the prevailing opinion is that it is hardly worth taking action against human traffickers. All too often the evidence is missing, and the gangs in their home country are far too well networked at influential levels for political intervention.

It is a shocking image that is presented to the audience in the documentary. Perhaps, however, the film also stimulates one or the other suitor to rethink. Because Derks sees this as the only way to stop human trafficking in this country in the long term.

Source: teleschau - der mediendienst GmbH