The United Kingdom’s Isleworth Crown Court yesterday sentenced a Nigerian woman, Franca Asemota, to 22 years in jail after she was found guilty of attempting to traffic Nigerian girls through Heathrow Airport to work as sex workers in brothels across Europe.
Ms. Asemota, 38, was found guilty on Wednesday of a 12-count charge that included conspiracy to traffic persons for sexual exploitation, trafficking persons outside of the UK for sexual exploitation, and assisting unlawful immigration.
She was part of a criminal network that trafficked girls, boys and women from Nigeria to Europe using threats to guarantee their compliance.
Ms. Asemota, who was identified as a trafficking suspect in 2012, fled from Italy to Nigeria when some of her co-conspirators were arrested by Immigration Enforcement investigators.
She spent time in Europe before the National Crime Agency (NCA) tracked her down to Nigeria.
In an operation coordinated by the NCA, she was arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in Benin City in March 2015.
Once her identity was confirmed, Ms. Asemota was extradited back to the UK in January this year.
After a four-week trial, the Isleworth Crown Court found her guilty of conspiracy to traffic for sexual exploitation and assisting unlawful immigration.
The head of the Immigration Enforcement crime team, David Fairclough, described Ms. Asemota as the “lynchpin of a trafficking ring which targeted vulnerable young women in Nigeria, promising them a brighter future working in Europe.”
Mr. Fairclough said it however became clear soon that what she claimed to be doing was far different, as the victims, some who were as young as 13, were told they would be sold into prostitution.
“Asemota travelled with the girls in order to threaten them and keep them in line. Trafficking is a despicable crime, as this case shows. We work closely with our law enforcement colleagues internationally to identify the criminal gangs responsible and put them before the courts,” Fairclough said.
The head of the NCA’s UK Human Trafficking Centre, Martin French, said: “Franca Asemota and her criminal network took advantage of these vulnerable young women in some of the worst ways possible. They promised them a better life, but in reality treated them as nothing more than a commodity to be sold into slavery.”