British woman guilty of trafficking Nigerians to Germany for prostitution

|News, International and organised crime

The ringleader of a network that trafficked young Nigerian women to Europe and forced them to work as prostitutes has today (28 June) been convicted.

Josephine Iyamu, 51, denied trafficking five women from Nigeria to Germany and exploiting them for prostitution.

However, a jury at Birmingham Crown Court convicted her of modern slavery and perverting the course of justice.

On 4 July she was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment at the same court.

The court heard that Iyamu, who lives in London, arranged for the women to travel from Nigeria to Germany, promising them a better life in Europe.

In exchange for facilitating the travel, Iyamu charged the victims between 30,000 and 38,000 euros, and then made them work as prostitutes in order to repay the debt.

The victims were also forced to undertake an oath at a voodoo ceremony, where they promised to repay the debt, not to inform police and not run away from the defendant.

Voodoo or ‘juju’ ceremonies are taken very seriously in West Africa and the women were fearful of what may happen if they broke the oath.

Iyamu was arrested at Heathrow Airport on 24 August last year after the owner of a brothel in Germany raised concerns about the identity of a woman working there.

This is the first prosecution under the Modern Slavery Act involving victims who have no connection to the UK, but have been victimised by a UK national.

In preparation for the trial, the CPS worked with the National Crime Agency, German police and the German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) to enable the five victims to give their evidence live via video-link from four different court rooms abroad.

Witnesses from Nigeria also gave evidence, one in person and others by video link, facilitated by the NCA and by a CPS Criminal Justice Advisor based in Lagos.

Andy Young, from the CPS, said: “Josephine Iyamu exploited five vulnerable women by promising them a better life in Europe. Instead she treated the women like property and forced them to become prostitutes.   

"The victims had the courage to describe what happened to them via video-link from Germany. After hearing this testimony and in light of the strong case put forward by the CPS, the jury have today found Iyamu guilty of modern slavery.

“Thanks to the close partnership between the CPS, the NCA, the National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons(NAPTIP) and German law enforcement, the prosecution was able to bring the strongest possible case to court.

“Crucial evidence was provided by the victims themselves and I would like to thank them for their bravery in coming forward.”

Notes to editors

  • Andy Young is a Specialist Prosecutor with the CPS International Justice and Organised Crime Division
  • Josephine Iyamu (12.09.66) was charged and found guilty of five counts of arranging to facilitate travel of another person with a view to exploitation and one count of perverting the course of justice
  • The charge of perverting the course of justice relates to telephone calls made by Iyamu discussing tracing and intimidating family members and witnesses
  • Arranging to facilitate travel of another person with view to exploitation is an offence under the Modern Slavery Act
  • Josephine Iyamu was prosecuted as part of Operation Redroot, a National Crime Agency investigation. It is the first prosecution under the Modern Slavery Act where the victims have had no connection with the UK but the trafficker is a UK national
  • The CPS has a dedicated Criminal Justice Advisor based in Nigeria, who provided support to prosecutors in the UK. This included securing the permission for the five victims to give evidence by video link from Germany. The CPS Criminal Justice Advisor, acted as a dedicated point of contact for UK-based colleagues as well as partners at the NCA and in the German authorities. More information on international and organised crime can be found here: https://www.cps.gov.uk/international-and-organised-crime

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