Rome: Police in Italy on Thursday said they rescued a 13-year-old Romanian girl whose relatives forced her to work as a prostitute and beggar in Rome and starved, beat and tortured her if she rebelled.
The girl is now in care. Five people including three aunts and her paternal grandmother have been served arrest warrants on charges of underage prostitution, forgery and organised crime.
“The girl was raised with the sole objective of increasing her family’s wealth,” police said.
The girl’s younger sisters were also forced to beg and brutally punished if they disobeyed, according to police.
“She and her (younger) sisters were forced to beg and beaten with a belt, left outside naked and soaked with cold water if they did not follow orders,” police said.
The girl was freed in December 2014 but police only announced her rescue on Thursday to allow an investigation of the harrowing case.
The girl was freed when officers spotted an elderly man in a car parked outside a Rome supermarket soliciting sex from the teenager, according to a police statement.
The illiterate, malnourished teenager and her younger siblings had been left in Italy with their paternal grandmother and aunts after their parents moved to the US, police said.
The family lived in a trailer park, which in Italy are mostly inhabited by impoverished Roma Gypsies.
The girl’s grandmother and one aunt had fled to Romania but were arrested there on a European warrant. The grandmother has been extradited to Italy and the aunt will be in the next few months, police said.