Police in Spain have rescued 13 women who were being forced to work as prostitutes in the Spanish resort near Marbella.

The Bulgarian gang, whose members were arrested during the raids, had sought "total control" of the upmarket resort, the police said in a statement.

The raids, which were carried out by a special task force, ended with 34 suspected gang members being arrested across Europe. The gang reportedly brought women from poor areas of Bulgaria to the Costa del Sol, and forced them to work on the streets of Puerto Banus.

Police said that the victims were also forced to steal from their clients whom they may have drugged.

The women and their families were threatened with violence if they refused.

Authorities recovered piles of cash and boxes of allegedly stolen jewellery, watches and passports during the raids.

Joint research team of Bulgarian and Spanish agents

The raids were a culmination of years of police work in Spain and Bulgaria. The investigation began in late 2014 after a Bulgarian woman told officers in Marbella that she had escaped from the gang who were forcing her to work as a prostitute.

The operation was part of the plan of the National Police against Trafficking of Human Beings for Sexual Exploitation, which was launched in 2013. The plan led to the creation of the Central Brigade against Trafficking of Human Beings, attached to the General Commissary of Aliens and Borders of the National Police.

During the operation, which was carried out by both countries, the agents arrested 26 members of the gang in Spain and eight in Bulgaria.

Marbella prostitution ring
Police recovered piles of cash and boxes of allegedly stolen jewellery, watches, pharmaceuticals and passports during the raids - Representational Image JORGE GUERRERO/AFP/Getty Images