A British nurse is headed to jail after using “voodoo” magic to terrify and traffick Nigerian women into Germany to work as prostitutes.
The Birmingham Crown Court sentenced Josephine Iyamu to 14 years in jail Wednesday, making her the first British national to be prosecuted for Modern Slavery Act crimes after trafficking five women outside the U.K., BBC News reported.
Iyamu, 51, was convicted on five counts of facilitated travel of another person for sexual exploitation, as well as perverting the court of justice after prosecutors said she arranged for the relatives of her victims to be arrested in Nigeria.
According to court testimony, the women said they were forced to swear to hand over money they earned as prostitutes during “juju” ceremonies led by a witchdoctor. The women were also forced to drink a blood concoction containing worms, devour chicken hearts, and have powder rubbed into their wounds as part of the rituals. Violent beatings were commonplace as well.
The Metro UK reported that Iyamu was the ringleader of an international human trafficking crime ring — which paid for her huge mansion in Nigeria’s Benin City replete with servants who had their own rooms. The Liberian native charged each victim £26,000 ($34,000) and £33,000 ($44,000) to make the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean from Africa to Germany on inflatable boats.
When they arrived in Europe, the ladies were forced into prostitution to pay off their debts, however. All five had to be rescued from the boat they were on before they were taken to a camp in Italy, according to BBC News.
Iyamu showed “a complete disregard for the welfare of these women,” sentencing Judge Richard Bond said Wednesday, adding that she exposed the ladies to “real and significant” danger. “You saw them not as living, breathing human beings but as commodities to earn you large sums of money.”
Iyamu became a British citizen in 2009, which allowed her to be prosecuted under the nation’s Modern Slavery Act. She was employed as a registered nurse.
“She was an agency nurse and that totally goes against for me what a nurse is – somebody who looks after people, who makes them better and certainly what she was doing was totally opposed to what in my mind a nurse should be,” NCA senior investigating officer Kay Mellor told Metro UK.
In court, Mellor detailed the sadistic rituals the women were subjected to, including one where, “snippets of the victims’ head and pubic hair would then be kept in individualized packages and they were told: ‘You have now eaten from the devil and if you do not pay, the devil will kill you.’ ”
A jury of 10 women and one and one man took 11 hours to return a guilty verdict following the eight week-long trial, according to the newspaper.
Iyamu’s defense lawyer told the court his client had “lost everything” as a result of her indictment, including her dreams of becoming a Nigerian politician.