Spain: police arrest so-called 'bar code pimps' gang

Police in Spain arrested 22 people involved in two Madrid prostitution rings who have been using violence against the women and tattooing bar codes on their arms, the Associated Press reported.

CNN said the bar code was branded into the wrist of a 19-year-old women who officers were able to free. The code was used as a certificate of "ownership" by one prostitution ring.  Police said that beneath the bar code was tattooed the amount of money she owed the ring, the equivalent of $2,650.

Held hostage by a pimp, the woman had been beaten and whipped, and her head and eyebrows were shaven because she tried to flee.

Spain's Interior Ministry said Saturday that all those arrested were of Romanian nationality and had forced the women to hand over part of their earnings.

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In the raid, police seized the equivalent of $185,388 in cash, illegal firearms, gold jewelry and five luxury cars.

The gang was made up of two separate groups, which controlled prostitution along Madrid's Montera Street.

Police said the women and underage girls were controlled at all times to ensure "money was taken off them immediately" and ring members referred to the women as "packages," "suitcases," or "bicycles."

The sex industry in Spain is legal but not regulated and takes advantage of poor women from Latin America, Africa and eastern Europe.

Pimping, however, is a crime.  In the coming weeks, Barcelona is due to introduce regional legislation banning prostitution on urban streets.