A London nurse who used voodoo to traffick vulnerable Nigerian women into prostitution in Germany has been convicted under the Modern Slavery Act.
Josephine Iyamu, 51, formerly of Bermondsey, was convicted of five counts of arranging travel for sexual exploitation at Birmingham Crown Court. She was also found guilty of perverting the course of justice.
“What she was doing was totally opposed to what in my mind a nurse should be”
Ms Iyami, who was born in Liberia, became a British citizen in 2009 after been allowed to stay in the UK because of her nursing qualifications.
During 2016-17 she worked 37 days in south east London hospitals for NHS Capitol Staffing Services, according to media reports of the court case.
She declared an income of £14,500 from her work as a nurse but after her arrest last year investigators found she owned a large home in Benin City Nigeria and was spending thousands of pounds on air travel.
Her conviction is the first successful prosecution of a British national for offences commited overseas under the Modern Slavery Act.
The court heard that Ms Iyamu oversaw the recruitment of vulnerable women from rural parts of Nigeria. She would arrange for them to travel to Germany promising them a better life in Europe.
In exchange for arranging their travel, she would charge the women more than 30,000 Euros. Once in Germany the women would be forced to work in brothels in order to repay the debt.
“It is hard to describe how these women had to suffer on their trip to Germany”
She forced the women to swear oaths to hand over money to her during “juju” ceremonies – a ritual designed to exert control over them.
They were forced to drink blood containing worms, eat chicken hearts, have their skin cut with razor blades and made to take an oath not to try and escape or tell the police.
They were threatened with serious harm to them and their families if they broke the oath, according to the National Crime Agency.
The NCA began investigating Ms Iyamu in July 2017, after German police identified one of her victims and heard evidence about a trafficking network.
Ms Iyamu and her husband, 60-year-old Efe Ali-Imaghodor, were arrested in August by NCA officers after they landed at Heathrow airport on a flight from Lagos.
While in custody, Ms Iyamu tried to intimidate the victims and their families and attempted to bribe law enforcement officers to say she was innocent.
Her husband has been found not guilty of perverting the course of justice.
Kay Mellor, the NCA’s operations manager, said: “Josephine Iyamu is a calculated individual who used her apparent status as a rich, powerful and influential lady to intimidate and manipulate vulnerable women.
“To her, these women were not human beings seeking a better life,” she said. “They were merely a commodity which she could exploit to generate income for herself.”
Source: National Crime Agency
Newspapers also quoted Ms Mellor saying that Ms Iyamu had exploited her role as a nurse in the worst possible way:
“She was 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,” she said.
Mario Lahn, lead investigator from the police in the town of Trier in Germany, said: “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 anguish they had to get through and all of them are still suffering,” he said.
He praised the “excellent” co-operation between the criminal investigation department in Trier, the Federal Criminal Agency, the NCA, Europol and the police in Nigeria.
Ms Iyamu will be sentenced next week. The NCA’s financial investigation into Ms Iyamu’s assets continues.