by Nicola Smith
The Madeira Islands are situated 540 miles southwest of Lisbon, Portugal, are a Portuguese archipelago positioned about 360 miles directly west of Morocco. They are an autonomous region of Portugal, with Madeira Island and Porto Santo Island being the only inhabited ones. They were discovered by Portuguese sailors, Prince Henry the Navigator, João Goncalves Zarco and Tristão Vaz Teixeira in the early 15th century. The Portuguese crown claimed possession of the islands, and settlement began around 1420, with the exportation of wheat following shortly thereafter. As the grain industry began to decline, Henry called for the planting of sugarcane, and it wasn’t long before the crop became a major component of the island’s economy. Labour demands increased, and Genoese and Portuguese traders grew interested in the islands. As the Portuguese were the main force behind the slave trade in the 1400-1500’s it was not difficult to find slaves to help with the sugar plantations. The sugarcane industry thrived until the 17th century, before moving onto Brazil, and since then Madeira’s most important product has been its wine.
In the early 19th century, the Madeira Islands were briefly occupied by the British Empire, as a result of the Napoleonic Wars. Then, in 1916, the islands began experiencing the effect of World War I, as German ships pulled into Funchal harbour and torpedoed 3 ships. The following year, German ships bombarded Funchal once again. As a result of the democratic revolution of 1974, Madeira received autonomy, and these days the islands are a popular year-round resort and cruise ship port, famed worldwide for Madeira wine, embroidery artisans, with near perfect weather conditions.
Madeira has a population of 300,000, Funchal, the capital city, has a population of about 100,000 inhabitants. From its natural harbour, Funchal literally covers the slopes of an ancient volcano, with many of its narrow streets reminiscent of those in Venice, Italy. This beautiful picturesque island has a dark connection to child trafficking and prostitution. Although historically slaves were brought onto the island to work the fields, now with the growing commercial factor, child prostitution has developed to become part of the economy for the poor. Not only adults are selling sexual services to locals and tourists but also children are being used within the sex industry and play a major part in child trafficking and sexual exploitation. With many turning a blind eye in the early 1980’s when the paedophile circles started to travel to the island not for lace or wine but for the children, this small island soon became known as a haven for paedophiles.
But why is this beautiful island being turned into a prime place for children to be abused? It is reported widely that poverty and sexual exploitation go hand in hand. Those suffering from poverty are purposely targeted by traffickers as a means of exploitation. Due to poverty, some parents will even sell their children. But with poverty on the one hand and the demands of tourism on the other, the situation has been escalating out of control. The situation grew bad quickly and before long, bars in Amsterdam were selling videos of children from Madeira, and the seedy business of child pornography has singled out Madeira as the place to come. Not only were there porn videos been found of the children from Madeira doing pornographic acts but also making the video as a sex tourism excursion, highlighting how easy it is to purchase a child for sex. Although most of the children that have been sexually exploited are boys, as highlighted by Jouneyman.TV , there are dangers to all the children on the island as the commercial factor of child abuse becomes an issue.
Madeira is one of the few places in Western Europe where local children still beg on the streets. The link between begging, child exploitation and prostitution are almost inevitably linked. The average 12-year-old here is more likely to spend their early years hustling for money or prostituting themselves than learning how to read or write. Each year more and more children are turning to this way of life. Within communities like the Autonomous Region and Camara dos Lobos poverty ridden shanty towns the combination of destitution, desperation and large families produces an endless stream of street children vulnerable to exploitation. There is always a demand for child exploitation and Madeira is only fuelling that demand as poor families live in conditions, so cramped that it’s not unusual for a family of 12 to share one room.
Camara dos Lobos was the hunting ground for Robert Van Deer Naatan and Norbert de Ryck who have been making pornographic films in Madeira since the early ‘90’s. They would gather boys as young as 12. They use of Madeiran children by a paedophile network – with links to Belgium, the Netherlands and other European countries – took place between 1982 and 1997. The children were used to perform sexual acts in porn movies displayed and sold in centres linked to several European cities, such as Tense, Hults and Utrecht (Netherlands) with a large gay underground culture. In total ten films with Madeiran children have been identified. The problem with sex tourism is that paedophiles on holiday can quickly return to their own country and the cover of immunity and unless their country is willing to prosecute it is difficult to track down the perpetrator. However, authorities are trying to address the issue all be it slowly and arrests and prosecutions have been made.
Some of the 300 videos found to contain pornographic images of children linked to Madeiran provided leads led to arrests. In 1999, the Madeira courts found six defendants guilty, five foreign and one from Madeira, Agostinho Marques, sentenced to 30 months in prison. Of the remaining, Richard Harder was acquitted by the Joint Court of Funchal in 2001, Albert Cristian Mullanders was sentenced to four years of imprisonment by the Tribunal of Funchal in 2002, Norbert de Ryck to eight years in prison in Belgium, Van Der Naaten received two years in the Netherlands. The final defendant was Warwick Spinks, sought in Madeira and the U.K. although he has not served time for this case in 1995, he was sentenced for the detention and child abduction, he received a five year sentence, of which only two and a half have been served.
Warwick Spinks, it is now known, was dedicated not only to the marketing of child pornography but also far worse. He also orchestrated the trafficking of children across Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and several other European countries. The children were then placed in Dutch brothels under physical duress. He also orchestrated the making and sale of snuff movies involving children. In an article published in November 2000, the British newspaper “The Guardian” refers to the testimony given by an informant to British police following an investigation over a paedophilia network connected to the circle of Amsterdam. The man under the fictitious alias of “Terry”, stated within a Dutch city, he watched a video of child pornography in which a boy was tortured and killed. Many of the films linking back to Madeiran children. Under the same article, this testimony was reinforced by statements made at Scotland Yard in 1993 by a gay man identified only as “Frank”, who described another video involving a twelve-year-old boy. The film was delivered by Spinks for subsequent sale during a trip to the Canary Islands. According to the witness, the boy was beaten, tortured with needles, castrated and killed. “Edward”, declared in 1997 that he had seen five of these films, which always ended with the death of children involved.
This was, however, not the only evidence of the existence of such films. The French ‘site’ “Julie et Mélissa, N’Oubliez Pas”, dedicated to combating paedophilia, reported in April 2001 that Jan W. Robert, charged with complicity in the deaths of three children in snuff films, gave the Dutch Police names and addresses of several people involved in the production and viewing of these films. Jan W. Robert Marcel was charged with the production of snuff films, a charge he later pleaded guilty to. The paedophilia cases mentioned by the French ‘site’ are once again related to houses of prostitution and sale of child pornography from the Netherlands, which has been implicated in the circle Warwick Spinks and, indirectly, one of the other defendants in the case of the Madeiran children, Norbert Ryck.
Among these, in addition to Norbert de Ryck, were also present Robbie Van Der Plancken and Lothar Glandorf, two paedophiles accused of belonging to the child prostitution circuit in Holland, where Spinks was involved. In 2016, the clubs that provided material relating to child prostitution in the Netherlands are no longer in operation. Although the major paedophilia rings that operated in the 1980-1990 has been disbanded there are still those that pray on the young children of Madeira. Due to the major issue of child prostitution and trafficking in September 1998, the Portuguese Parliament passed a new law that enlarged the definition of paedophilia to include the consumers of child pornography. Closer to home, in 2010 a Portuguese TV presenter Carlos Cruz, was found guilty of being involved in a paedophile ring that visited Madeira to have sex with young children. The abuse continues.
The seed has been laid now, any and every paedophile that can travel to Madeira will seek the sexual services of children and while the poor remain getting poorer they will continue to encourage their children to beg to spend time on the streets, to be exposed to the dangers of sexual predators and traffickers. The problem will not go away unless affirmative action is taken by the authorities with severe sentence for predators as well as the care and attention needed for the children of Madeira.