Spanish police free 19-year-old woman who had been beaten, held against her will and tattooed with bar code on wrist
Spanish police free 19-year-old woman who had been beaten, held against her will and tattooed with barcode on wrist

Police in Spain have arrested 22 men suspected of bullying women into prostitution and tattooing them with barcodes.

The gang has been called the "barcode pimps" by police officials.

Police were led to the men in Madrid after rescuing a 19-year-old woman who had been beaten, held against her will and tattooed with a barcode on her wrist.

She had been whipped, chained to a radiator and had her hair and eyebrows shaved off, according to a statement from the interior ministry.

The suspects were Romanian and were accused of forcing the women into handing over part of their earnings. The women were tattooed if they tried to escape, the ministry added.

Police seized guns, ammunition, €140,000 (£117,000) in cash, five cars and a large amount of gold jewellery.

The gang was composed of two groups, each with their own patch in downtown Madrid.

The women were controlled at all times to ensure "money was taken off them immediately", the ministry statement said.

Spain's prostitution laws are vague but pimping is a crime.