A London-based nurse was convicted Thursday under new modern slavery laws for using voodoo magic to force five Nigerian women to travel to Germany and start working as prostitutes.
Josephine Iyamu, 51, arranged trafficking of the women through Libya, Italy and eventually to Germany where they were pushed into the sex industry. She also forced the women to hand over money during “juju” ceremonies during which they were asked to drink blood containing worms, eat chicken hearts and experience powder being rubbed into their cuts, BBC reported.
One of the women was told to pay $43,123 to be trafficked for prostitution.
Iyamu, who was arrested last year, was convicted of five counts of facilitating travel across the Mediterranean for sexual exploitation after a 10-week trial at the Birmingham Crown Court. She was also convicted of perverting the course of justice by arranging for the relatives of the women to be arrested in Nigeria. Iyamu will be sentenced Wednesday.
With this, Iyamu becomes the first person to be convicted under Modern Slavery Act, which consolidates offences relating to trafficking and slavery, and was passed in 2015.
U.K.'s National Crime Agency (NCA) found that Iyamo spent thousands on international air travel and owned a large house in Nigeria.
"Josephine Iyamu had a network of people who assisted her with trafficking the women from Nigeria overland to Libya - across the Mediterranean Sea to Italy and from Italy up and into Germany,” Simon Davis, prosecutor told jurors. "She was there on the mobile phone along the way but her real role was at the end of their journey - when it came to getting money from the women and making a profit out of their exploitation."
"The debts incurred by the women were enforced through fear. Each of the women were put through what is known to some as a voodoo ceremony,” he said, adding that Iyamu gained psychological control over the women through voodoo because of which they were scared to challenge her, the Telegraph reported.
"Iyamu and others involved with her were willing to put these women at risk of serious injury and or death as they made their journey from Nigeria to Europe,” he said.
Kay Mellor, NCA operations manager, said Iyamu used her status as a rich, powerful and influential lady to intimidate the Nigerian women and sent them via dangerous routes to Germany without any concern for their safety.
"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,” Mellor said, adding that she forced them to work in brothels to fund her own lifestyle.
Mellor also said that she salutes 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," Mellor said.