A criminal gang notorious for its brutality is gaining a foothold in major Swedish cities, police have warned. The drug-traffickers and people-smugglers from Nigeria are known for using “black magic” to coerce people into crime.
The ‘Black Axe’ – a group described as nothing but a ‘death cult’ that kills, kidnaps, resolves internal conflicts with machete fights and uses voodoo as an instrument of blackmail – has firmly established itself in Sweden and is now coming to the city of Uppsala in the latest concerning development, local police have said.
“Unfortunately, we see signs of that,” Jale Poljarevius, a local police spokesman told the Swedish SVT broadcaster. So far, it is mostly about drug trafficking and prostitution – yet, the “black magic” footprint of the gang is already clearly visible.
“They are holding women hostage and are tricking them [into believing] through the use of voodoo that it will end up badly for them if they quit the job,” Poljarevius said. “Yet, it is also about selling cocaine and heroin.”
Now, the police fear that the group’s rise in the city would lead to a wave of gang violence, as it will have to fight for its place in the sun in an already extremely crowded criminal environment. “There is a lot of cocaine but not so many users so the market is quite saturated. It would lead to violence rather than cooperation,” the police spokesman said.
Network of evil
Uppsala appears to be just the latest battleground for the gang that has already entrenched itself in other major cities like Gothenburg, or Sweden’s capital of Stockholm. In early October, the Swedish media reported that 15 people linked to the dreaded mafia have been charged with “particularly serious drug offenses” in what was described as one of the Swedish Customs Administration’s “largest investigations ever.”
A 179-page lawsuit filed with the Gothenburg District Court says that “the organization is estimated to have sold drugs worth a total of 112 million Swedish Krona ($11.51 million) … amounting to approximately 42 kilograms of cocaine, 50 kilograms of heroin and 40 kilograms of heroin/cocaine mix,” Expressen newspaper reports.
Around the same time, the Swedish prosecutors admitted that the group has also long been active in Stockholm. “They have really heavily established themselves over the past five years,” a local police spokesman Lennart Karlsson, told the Ekot newspaper.
The gang lures migrants from West Africa with a promise of jobs only to drag them into criminal activities afterwards. According to police, they particularly use a Stockholm mosque frequented by the people of West African origin for recruitment purposes. “People … [are] told to come there and get contacts to get a job. The Black Axe members hang out outside and [recruit] them,” Karlsoon explains.
In their methods, the criminals heavily rely on juju – a Nigerian version of the voodoo magic – as they perform rituals and then convince their exploitation victims – mostly migrants – that the gang would “obliterate their souls” should they disobey orders or report its members to police. But they do not shy away from more “traditional” blackmail methods involving kidnappings and killings.
In early September, a man of Nigerian origin was arrested in Stockholm’s Arlanda airport as he tried to smuggle 70 capsules of heroin and cocaine in his body. He told the investigators that he was forced to act as a drug courier by the Black Axe after they killed his father and threatened to also kill his mother in his native Nigeria.
“They threaten but we also know that they simply murder people. However, there is no indication that this happened in Sweden. Yet, it did happen in their home country [Nigeria] and in other countries where the network is established,” Prosecutor Karolina Lindekrantz told the Swedish media.
Arrived on refugee wave
Over the years, the Black Axe has evolved into an international crime syndicate that challenges law and order across the world from Europe to Canada, where the group has held an iron grip on the local Nigerian community since after 2005, and runs large-scale smuggling operations as well as millions of dollars-worth money laundering and fraud schemes.
However, the gang’s taking root in Europe is relatively recent. Stemming from a nationalist student movement that turned into a ruthless organized group after the 1980 military coup in Nigeria, the group gained power through terror tactics in that and other nations – but did not gain a foothold in the EU until 2015.
Then, at the height of the refugee and migrant crisis, Black Axe members arrived to Sicily and engaged in a turf war with the notorious Cosa Nostra mafia – only to start collaborating with it soon afterwards. From there, the gang spread its influence in other European countries, including Austria and the Netherlands.
Now Swedish media describes it as a business-like, tech-savvy organization, excelling at modern technologies and keeping a low profile to stay largely below the police radar.
“In my opinion, it is one of the world’s most effective crime syndicates,” Stockholm police spokesman Karlsoon has admitted. “So, unfortunately for us, they [will] probably have a pretty bright future.”