ABOVE + BELOW – Josephine Iyamu (aka: Madam Sandra)
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Josephine Iyamu, a nurse from London, was convicted on Thursday of organizing a sex trafficking network that performed voodoo rituals on Nigerian women before bringing them to Europe and forcing them into sex work, National Crime Agency announced.

Iyamu oversaw the recruitment of women from rural Nigerian towns and organized their travel to Germany. The victims were charged between 30,000 and 38,000 euros (US$34,000 to 44,000) in exchange for transport to what was promised to be a better life.

When they arrived in Germany, the women were taken to brothels and forced to work as prostitutes to repay the debt.

“She promised me that when I came to Germany she would take care of me — I would not want for anything,” Kiki, one of Iyamu’s victims said in a video she sent to court for evidence. “It was not easy, I start from 3:00 in the afternoon to 6:00 in the morning,” she said.

An essential part of Iyamu’s network was the recruitment of a voodoo priest who would perform a ‘Juju’ ceremony, which is meant to exert control over women. The ceremony required women to drink blood with worms, eat chicken hearts, have their skin cut with razor blades, and promise not to try to escape, according to the NCA. If they broke the oath, their families safety would be in danger.

The National Crime Agency has been investigating Iyamu since June 2017, when a victim was identified by the German police.

They found Iyamu, known to her victims as Madam Sandra, in South London working as a nurse.

During the 10-week long trial, five victims sent in videos that explained their experience in Germany as well as their journey from Africa via Italy to Germany and how it was ridden with sexual assault, rape, kidnap and death.

“It is hard to describe how these women had to suffer on their trip to Germany,” Mario Lahn, lead investigator from the German police, said. “In every meeting with them it became apparent what anguishes they had to get through and all of them are still suffering.”

The court also uncovered evidence showing that Iyamu’s phone was used to contact her victims. Some of them said that Iyamu called multiple times a day to ask for money.

“She would call me to say she needed money,” Kiki said. “She doesn’t know if I have enough to eat, she does not care about me. She only wants money, money. I had to pay 120 euros (US$140) rent every day but if I didn’t work, I didn’t have the money to pay.”

Even when she was in custody, Iyamu made further attempts to trace and intimidate the victims and their families. She also attempted to bribe law enforcement officers into proving her innocence, according to the NCA.

This conviction makes Iyamu is the first person to be convicted under new modern slavery laws enacted in a 2015.

A sentencing hearing will take place on July 4.