British nurse Josephine Iyamu, 51, has been convicted at Birmingham Crown Court of leading a gang which used "juju" rituals to trick Nigerian women into becoming sex slaves in Germany.
Her trial, which lasted 10 weeks, heard evidence from one of women she had trafficked from Nigeria to Germany and exploited for prostitution.
They gave evidence via a video link from Germany, where they are now living in safety, and several other witnesses in Nigeria gave evidence using the same method.
@Gidi_Traffic The Property in Benin City,Nigeria,owned by Josephine Iyamu.The UK National Crime Agency said Iyamu forced victims to take oaths that bound their loyalty to her on pain of death.Iyamu was made a British citizen in 2009 & allowed to stay in the UK due to her nursing pic.twitter.com/L9rfOogm4N— AustynZOGS (@Austynzogs) 28 June 2018
Iyamu, who was known as Madam Sandra, employed a juju priest to carry out a black magic ritual designed to exert control over the women.
They were forced to drink blood containing worms, eat chicken hearts, have their skin cut with razor blades and made to take an oath.
The women all fervently believed their families would suffer dire consequences if they broke the oath because of the magical power of the juju ritual.
The investigation and subsequent conviction of Josephine Iyamu was done in close partnership with @naptipnigeria. We are proud to work alongside international partners to help safeguard victims and bring criminals to justice. pic.twitter.com/Ucw6A32yCU— NationalCrimeAgency (@NCA_UK) 28 June 2018
Iyamu and her gang then organized for the women to be trafficked across North Africa, then by boat to Italy, and eventually on to Germany where they were set up in brothels.
Along the way the women were often raped and saw other migrants drowning or being beaten.
Iyamu, who was born in Liberia, is the first British national to be convicted under the Modern Slavery Act for an offense which involves victims who have no connection to the UK.
Her husband, Efe Ali-Imaghodor, 60, was acquitted of perverting the course of justice.
Tip-off From Police in Germany City of Trier
The UK's National Crime Agency began investigating Iyamu in July last year after the German police in the city of Trier pointed to her being the ringleader of the sex trafficking network.
NCA officers tracked her down to a flat in Bermondsey, south London, where she was working as an agency nurse.
Despite her modest income she frequently travelled to Europe and had a large home and servants in Benin City in Nigeria.
The trial heard she fooled young Nigerian women into thinking they would be going to a better life in Europe and charged them up to 38,000 euros (US$44,000) each for the privilege.
But her accomplices in Germany forced them into prostitution in order to pay off the debt they owed her.
Iyamu and her husband were arrested in August last year when they arrived at London's Heathrow airport from Lagos.
Her cellphones were found to have made and received thousands of calls and messages from her victims in Germany.
Josephine Iyamu was today convicted of trafficking young girls from #Nigeria to Europe, subjecting them to Juju rituals to control them. Watch one of her victims, "Kiki", who was brave enough to give evidence in court, talk about her ordeal… pic.twitter.com/k82USjcQqQ— NationalCrimeAgency (@NCA_UK) 28 June 2018
Tried To Bribe And Intimidate While In Custody
NCA Operations Manager, Kay Mellor, said Iyamu tried to trace and intimidate the victims and their families when she was in custody and also tried to bribe law enforcement officers.
"Josephine Iyamu is a calculated individual who used her apparent status as a rich, powerful and influential lady to intimidate and manipulate vulnerable women," said Ms. Mellor.
"With zero regard for their safety and wellbeing, she sent them via dangerous routes to Germany and forced them to work in brothels to fund her own lifestyle. To her, these women were not human beings seeking a better life. They were merely a commodity which she could exploit to generate income for herself. 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," said Ms. Mellor.
"It is hard to describe how these women had to suffer on their trip to Germany. In every meeting with them it became apparent what anguishes they had to get through and all of them are still suffering," said Mario Lahn, the German police's lead investigator in Trier.
Iyamu will be sentenced on Wednesday, July 4.