Yards from a new £200m stadium, Poliana sells her body to dozens of construction workers in their lunch break for just £2.60 a time
- By Matt Roper
Sitting on a bed covered in cuddly toys, her long hair tied with a pink scrunchie, 14-year-old Poliana looks like any innocent young teenager.
But instead she is part of a sickening child prostitution scandal that heaps shame on World Cup hosts Brazil.
In this bedroom, only yards from a new £200 million stadium where England will play in next summer’s finals, Poliana sells her body to dozens of construction workers in their lunch break every day for just £2.60 a time.
And she is not alone.
A Sunday Mirror investigation reveals how hundreds of poverty stricken children, some aged just ELEVEN, are being sold to workers building Sao Paulo’s showcase World Cup ground.
Yet they are feared to be just the start of a tidal wave of child prostitutes run by organised crime from drugs gangs and child sex traffickers to the Russian mafia. And they will swamp here and other stadiums in Brazil, luring lucrative foreign fans, when the tournament kicks off in June.
Already there are sinister reports of buses full of children like Poliana arriving in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s biggest city with 11.3 million people, from poor parts of the country after being snatched by traffickers.
The city’s worried justice secretary, Eloisa de Sousa Arruda, told us of cases of underage girls arriving through its international airport from the Congo and Somalia, supposedly financed by the Russian mafia.
And a Sao Paulo council inquiry into child prostitution, seen by the Sunday Mirror before publication, shows the crime-ridden city is powerless to stop them – because there is “no political will” to do so.
Every day, the grotesque trade goes on in broad daylight in roads near the stadium in the poor district of Itaquera – in full view of security guards and regular police patrols.
The girls sometimes take clients back to local run-down sex hotels, or work from their own bedrooms in shacks in a local squalid ‘favela’ or shanty town.
Residents of Favela da Paz, a slum in the shadow of the stadium, claim many of the girls are forced into prostitution by gangs.
We found Poliana after being led to her bedroom by other girls plying their trade close to the stadium’s perimeter fence.
She said she normally arranges to meet clients in a local sex motel, the pink-painted Hotel Palace, even though Brazilian law bans minors from entering such vice dens. “The owners know me, they always let me in,” she said.
Poliana said most of her trade comes from the 300 workers building Sao Paulo’s Arena Corinthians. Two weeks ago she discovered she is pregnant.
The youngster told us how she fell headlong into the world of prostitution only three months ago. She said: “It was the night my mother died. I’d been tempted to do prostitution before – some of my friends were doing it and there were people wanting me to do it.
“But when she died I just lost it. I went out on the streets that night. I didn’t know how I would find money to eat or pay the rent. It didn’t take long to find people wanting to pay. There were lots of men from the stadium turning up looking for sex.”
Poliana said she knows many other underage girls from poor communities around the stadium who sell their bodies to stadium workers employed by Odebrecht Infrastructure.
She said: “There are many who are younger than me, 11, 12. I’m often the oldest girl on the road. When the World Cup begins there will be many more girls my age and younger. Everyone thinks they can make a lot of money from the foreigners coming here.”
Thousands of England fans will be in Sao Paulo for the team’s second group game on June 19 against Uruguay. Another girl, 16-year-old Thais, left a man waiting inside a garage where she sometimes takes clients so she could speak to us.
A crack addict, Thais said she charges between 10 and 15 Reals – £2.60 to £4 – and has sex with up to 15 men a day.
“Nearly all my clients are from the works,” she said. “They always pay up, but they don’t always treat me well.
“But what can I do? My parents are dead, I need money. If it were not for the men at the stadium, I don’t know what I’d do. Tomorrow one of them has booked a whole day in the hotel – it will be a good day’s work for me.”
Thais also said she is “looking forward” to earning more during the World Cup. She said: “I’m going to charge the foreigners 50 Reals (£13) a time. I’m sure I’ll get a lot of work from the football fans.”
The city council’s inquiry into rocketing child prostitution paints a disturbing picture. A public hotline to report cases has “not stopped ringing” since it was set up nine months ago, said councillor Laercio Benko, the inquiry’s president. Reports include allegations children are being forcibly recruited into the sex trade by drugs gangsters.
The inquiry, due to publish its findings next month, also heard how pimps had been approaching men working at the stadium, offering them “very young girls” for sale. Cllr Benko said he fears the city could become a “child prostitution hub” before the big kick-off.
He said: “Sao Paulo is not organised to prevent this type of child sexual exploitation, not right now and much less during big events like the 2014 World Cup. What we are hearing are very serious allegations which demand responses, but I’m afraid there’s a lack of political will to bring it to an end.”
The nightmare is repeated across Brazil. In a recent survey of 300 workers on World Cup projects, 57 per cent said they knew of underage prostitution close to the sites. Astonishingly, a quarter of the men interviewed admitted they had paid for sex with children on one or more occasions.
An anti-trafficking expert told us: “For trafficking gangs the World Cup represents an unprecedented opportunity to make money. Foreign fans need to be aware of this – and that sex with a minor in Brazil carries up to 10 years’ jail.”
Back in the Favela da Paz, as building workers follow children into squalid shanty homes, dad-of-four Anderson Fonseca, 34, told us: “Since the work on the stadium started, it’s got out of control. Every day you see more girls, and much younger girls.”
Two weeks ago the Arena Corinthians raised fears of Brazil’s readiness to host the World Cup after a huge crane collapsed onto the structure, killing two workers.
But Sao Paulo’s chilling child prostitution explosion reveals even deeper worries about the country’s suitability to run the tournament.
A statement from construction firm Odebrecht Infrastructure said on Friday it “has not been notified” of child abuse allegations and is “unaware of any information about them.”