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An Italian man was arrested this week in Colombia’s Caribbean coast city Cartagena for the alleged crime of trafficking two children.

The man, along with a 31-year-old woman who is a Cartagena native, were discovered by the Cartagena Metropolitan police.

Inside the apartment, located in a luxury residential complex on Avenida San Martin, the police found two girls aged 14 that had been tricked by the Italian man. According to the police, the man had offered to adopt the girls and take them back to Italy to “change their lives.”

The children had not attended school and ultimately admitted in a phone call to a classmate where they were being held. 

While the woman was captured inside the apartment, the Italian man was arrested minutes after in reception when entering the building.

Officials are investigating whether one of the children discovered in the apartment complex is a Venezuelan citizen. The two children were taken to a local children’s hospital to check their state of health. Authorities are still awaiting the diagnosis of the doctors.

While the suspect claimed to have come to Colombia this month, authorities established that the man actually owns an apartment in Cartagena and has lived there for several years.

The two alleged child traffickers were taken Wednesday night before a judge who was to decide their fate during the duration of the investigation. A statement detailing the judge’s decision has yet to be made public.

Zully Salazar, CEO of the Cartagena tourism group Corpoturismo, tied the Italian’s arrest to Colombia’s greater struggle against the sexual exploitation of children.

“In Cartagena we are determined to eradicate sexual exploitation of children and adolescents,” said Salazar. “Thus from all sides of society fight to end this scourge.”

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Colombia Reports