Josephine Iyamu, a nurse in south London, used a witch doctor to convince her victims they were under her control and exploited them to fund a lavish lifestyle including trips to Europe and £700 designer shoes.
The 51-year-old, Nigerian politician was a ringleader of an international human trafficking crime network and lived in a huge mansion complete with a servants’ quarters.
Iyamu was handed a 14-year jail sentence at Birmingham Crown Court on Wednesday, in the first case of its kind in the UK.
Iyamu is the first British national prosecuted for Modern Slavery Act offences after trafficking victims outside the UK.
Passing sentence at Birmingham Crown Court, Judge Richard Bond told the Liberia-born nurse that her ‘vile’ offences had left the women in fear of their lives.
As Iyamu stared at the floor in the dock, Judge Bond told her she would have been fully aware of the dangers involved in a four-week land journey across the Sahara to Tripoli in Libya, followed by a sea voyage on inflatable boats.
Passing sentence, the judge told Iyamu: ‘Trafficking human beings is an ugly offence – it must always be dealt with severely by the courts to deter others from taking part in this vile trade.
‘You showed a complete disregard for the welfare of these women. You saw them not as living, breathing human beings but as commodities to earn you large sums of money.
‘All five of your victims had to be rescued from the boat they were on, before being put into a camp in Italy. You understood the potential dangers, you simply did not care.’
Iyamu charged each of her victims Euro 30,000 and Euro 38,000 to arrange for their travel to Europe – profiting from more than Euro 15,000 from one victim alone via wire transfers and cash payments.
The victims would then be forced to endure an arduous five day journey to the Libyan coast – which saw them shot at, ambushed and gang raped.
They would then catch an inflatable boat crammed with hundreds of people to Italy before being moved into Germany to work as prostitutes.
German police identified Iyamu as the ringleader of a Nigerian human trafficking operation after a brothel owner reported suspicions over one of his workers’ paperwork last January.
Iyamu and her husband Efe Ali-Imaghodor, 60, were arrested at Heathrow Airport on August 24 last year after travelling back from Nigeria.
Police found her in possession of seven mobile phones and more than 30 SIM cards linked them to the German investigation.
She was also found guilty of perverting the course of justice after paying Nigerian police to arrest one of the victims’ relatives in a bid to stop the woman giving evidence against them in the trial while both were in police custody in the UK.