Johannesburg - A sting operation by the SAPS, the Hawks and Interpol has foiled a human-trafficking incident that could have led to at least 14 young women from as many countries falling prey to a fake internet modelling competition.
Among the women who were lured to the web-based scheme was a 24-year-old South African from Bloemfontein, while others came from as far as Barbados and several Asian countries.
The unsuspecting women were promised a great life with the chance to win big prizes.
Swift action by the SAPS averted what could have led to them being trafficked, according to Police Minister Fikile Mbalula.
It started at just before midnight on Wednesday when Mbalula received information that a South African female could be subjected to a human-trafficking operation in Malaysia.
Mbalula said he immediately alerted the SAPS, Interpol and the Hawks, asking them to investigate the issue.
“Indeed a suspected case of international human trafficking was in progress in Malaysia, where at least 14 females were duped into a fake internet model competition,” Mbalula explained on Saturday.
He said swift intervention by international partners had assisted South Africa with rescuing its
“The South African victim is now safe and secure, while a male, a Nigerian national, has already been arrested in Malaysia after the sting operation on Friday.”
Mbalula said South African authorities were working to get "our girl" home soon.
“Meanwhile, she is safe and has been seen by our embassy representatives in Kuala Lumpur,” added Mbalula, explaining that he had been working behind the scenes on the matter.
The minister warned against the dangers posed by human trafficking syndicates who mainly target unsuspecting young women and girls.
“The issue of human trafficking is extremely serious and I want our young women in particular to know that they are the most vulnerable to sex traffickers, who later harvest human organs from them for trade in illicit organ transplant markets.”
The minister said his great concern had been that the South African woman and the rest of “the innocent young women” be rescued.
“All I thought of was not another hashtag. We must bring our girl home, and I am glad she is now safe and in good care.
“I expect to welcome our citizen back home by Sunday at 6pm. Unfortunately, she will have to spend her birthday on the flight, but we are very happy she will soon be home.”