UK court jails Nigerian human trafficker, Franca Asemota, 22 years

A Nigerian human smuggler who threatened to use “juju” against the women and children she helped to bring into Europe for forced prostitution was Thursday sentenced to 22 years imprisonment in the United Kingdom.

Franca Asemota, 38, was convicted on Wednesday, August 3 at Isleworth Crown Court of eight counts of conspiracy to traffic persons for sexual exploitation, two counts of trafficking persons outside of the UK for sexual exploitation and two counts of assisting unlawful immigration.

Asemota was part of a criminal network that trafficked girls, boys and women from Nigeria to Europe, using the threat of witchcraft to guarantee their compliance.

David Davies, Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) London reviewing lawyer, said: “This case demonstrates how the CPS will work with partners, in the UK and overseas, in order to tackle the trafficking gangs who make huge profits from human misery.”

“Franca Asemota played a key role in exploiting the poverty and vulnerability of her victims with the aim of forcing them into prostitution to make money for criminals.

“These girls were from poor, rural backgrounds with little education or knowledge of the world. They were targeted because of this and promised legitimate jobs in Europe. Only when they were far away from their homes were they told the truth – that they would have to work as prostitutes.

“The traffickers used alleged juju magic to exert complete control over their victims, using rituals to ‘curse’ them and ensure their compliance. The girls were told that if they disobeyed their captors or tried to escape, the curse would cause them injury, infertility or even death.

“Although only five victims have been identified the evidence showed that she facilitated the trafficking of around 40 people, mainly young girls, between August 2011 and May 2012.

“I would like to thank the victims in this case for supporting the prosecution and giving evidence in court. They have been through a traumatic ordeal and their bravery and courage has helped bring Asemota to justice.”

Asemota was identified as a main suspect in 2012 but fled back to Nigeria when some of her co-conspirators were arrested; believing British justice would not catch up with her.

Investigators spent around three years trying to locate Asemota until the National Crime Agency successfully tracked her down to Nigeria on March 25, 2015.

She was arrested by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) in Benin City on March 24, 2015 and extradited to Britain.