Monday 28 March 2022

Josephine Iyamu, 54, is the first British national to be convicted under the Modern Slavery Act

A London-based nurse who is currently serving an 18-year prison term for trafficking Nigerian women and forcing them into sex work across Europe has been ordered by the UK courts to hand over £183,806.06. Josephine Iyamu, 54, also known as "Madame Sandra" positioned herself to be a rich and powerful woman and targeted vulnerable women from rural Nigerian villages promising them a better life in Europe.

Iyamu, formerly of Bermondsey, forced the women she victimised to eat chicken hearts, drink blood containing worms, and have powder rubbed into cuts during rituals, the court previously heard._ When sentencing Iyamu, Judge Richard Bond said she had shown "a complete disregard for the welfare of these women" and she "saw them not as living, breathing human beings but as commodities to earn you large sums of money."

Iyamu charged her victims up to €38,000 for facilitating their travel before she forced them to work as prostitutes in Europe to pay off the debts she said they 'owed her'. She would also subject her victims through a humiliating Juju ceremony, which is designed to bond the victim to their trafficker, in which the women would believe serious harm would come to them or their families if they broke their oath to Iyamu.

Iyamu is currently serving an eighteen year sentence in prison.

Iyamu was the first British national to be convicted under the Modern Slavery Act for offences committed overseas, in a landmark prosecution led by the National Crime Agency in 2018.

She was handed a confiscation by Birmingham Crown Court on Friday, March 4 to hand over nearly £184K within three months or she will serve additional two years in prison and still be liable for the money.

The confiscation total took into account the assets still available to the convicted sex trafficker, including a large house in Benin City, Nigeria, where she was an employer to staff in the property.

The UK's National Crime Agency Senior Investigating Officer, Kay Mellor, said: “Josephine Iyamu specifically targeted vulnerable women and put them through the most horrific experience, only to profit considerably form their misery. Iyamu’s expenditure on travel and properties far outweighed her legitimate earnings as a nurse and our investigation into her finances proved she made hundreds of thousands of pounds from her criminality.

“Confiscation orders are a key tool which provide us with the capability to really hit criminals where it hurts – in the pocket. Iyamu was calculated, manipulative and motivated by money. Not only is she serving a hefty prison sentence, but she won’t be living a luxury lifestyle when she comes out.”

The initial investigation into Iyamu began in 2017 following the identification of one of her victims who was working in a German brothel at the time. Iyamu was located in London and was going under the alias of "Madame Sandra".

A joint effort between the National Crime Agency and the Nigerian Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) looked into her activities in Nigeria.

The five victims of Iyamu in the courtroom at her trial detailed their horrendous ordeal of travelling across Africa by land then via boat to Italy before finally being flown to Germany under false identities provided by Iyamu's associates.

She was arrested by officers after landing at Heathrow airport on a flight from Lagos on August 24 2017 and was originally sentenced to 14 years in prison but following an appeal her sentence was increased to 18 years two months later. Whilst in prison Iyamu sought to trace her victims and their families to intimidate them and she attempted to bribe law enforcement officers.

Iyamu was convicted of five counts of facilitating the travel of another person with a view to exploitation and one count of attempting to prevent the course of justice and she remains in prison.

Source: National Crime Agency

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