A Nigerian-born British nurse, Josephine Iyamu, who used ‘juju’ to traffic Nigerian prostitutes to Europe, has become the first person to be convicted under new modern slavery laws, after being found guilty on Thursday of trafficking five Nigerian women to Germany to work as prostitutes.
Daily Mail reports that Iyamu, formerly of South London, used a witch doctor to convince her victims they were under her control and exploited them to fund a lavish lifestyle that included trips to Europe and £700 designer shoes.
It was gathered that the 53-year-old woman, known as “Madame Sandra,” was a ringleader of an international human trafficking crime network.
Iyamu charged each of her victims 30,000 euros and 38,000 euros to arrange for their travel to Europe, profiting from more than 15,000 euros from one victim alone via wire transfers and cash payments.
“She would first make the vulnerable women undergo ‘juju’ ceremonies which would involve them drinking blood containing worms and eating the heart of a chicken.
“The victims would then be forced to endure an arduous five-day journey to the Libyan coast, which saw them shot at, ambushed and gang raped.
“They would then catch an inflatable boat crammed with hundreds of people to Italy, before being moved into Germany to work as prostitutes.
“German police identified Iyamu as the ringleader of a Nigerian human trafficking operation after a brothel owner reported suspicions over one of his workers’ paperwork last January,” the news outlet reports.
Iyamu and her husband were arrested at Heathrow Airport on August 24 last year after travelling back from Nigeria.
Police found her in possession of seven mobile phones and more than 30 SIM cards linking them to the German investigation.
Officers also discovered a piece of paper detailing a list of items needed as part of the ‘juju’ ceremonies and another with telephone numbers of criminal associates.
She was convicted at Birmingham crown court of five counts of arranging or facilitating travel for sexual exploitation.
Prosecutors said the Voodoo rituals gave Iyamu crushing psychological control over the women, who were too afraid to challenge her or to fail to pay her back tens of thousands of euros she charged them to be trafficked into Germany.
She was also found guilty of perverting the course of justice after paying Nigerian police to arrest one of the victims’ relatives in a bid to stop the woman giving evidence against them in the trial while both were in police custody in the UK.
Judge Richard Bond said:
“This is the first case in England and Wales under the new 2015 Act whereby people have been trafficked from one country into another country.
“This is going to set a precedent.”
The NCA’s operations manager, Kay Mellor, said:
“Josephine Iyamu is a calculating individual who used her apparent status as a rich, powerful and influential lady to intimidate and manipulate vulnerable Nigerian women.
“I commend the bravery of the five women who came forward and recounted the abuse they suffered. Thanks to them, Iyamu will no longer pose a threat to others.”
Iyamu is due to be sentenced on 4 July.