By Martin Cole-
A French court has sentenced 24 members of a Lyon-based sex trafficking ring to prison terms of up to seven years for forcing Nigerian women into prostitution.
Most of the defendants were Nigerians, in a case reminiscent of that conducted by condemned paedophile, Jeffrey Epstein. One of the defendants was Europe’s most wanted women, Jessica Edosomwan, accused of acting as a France-based “madam” to women recruited mainly in Nigeria’s southern Edo State.
The news comes as most of those responsible for the tens of thousands of migrants who crossed the Mediterranean to Europe by boat in 2016 and 2017 where Nigerians.
Many were women and girls lured to Europe with false promises of jobs as hairdressers or seamstresses, only to find themselves selling sex to repay their smugglers. Seventeen women filed complaints against the defendants but none of the victims attended the trial, with the exception of one former sex worker who found herself in the dock for luring another woman into the trade.
The accused had faced up to 10 years’ imprisonment on charges including human trafficking, pimping, money laundering and helping people live illegally in France.
Prosecutors estimated that the victims, aged 17 to 38, made up to 150,000 euros ($166,000) a month for the syndicate by selling sex in vans parked by the side of the road for as little as 10 euros.
A French mechanic who looked after the vans was among the 24 defendants.
Last year, 15 members of a Paris-based, female-led pimping ring known as the “Authentic Sisters” — many themselves former trafficking victims — were jailed for up to 11 years for forcing girls into slavery in France.
Most of the women come from Nigeria’s Benin City, a human trafficking hotbed. Sadly, many of Nigerian prostitutes are university graduates, unlike prostitutes in Europe who are usually uneducated and drug addicts. Graduates in Nigeria compete heavily for jobs because of the inherent cultural push for education and the scarcity of jobs in the country.
Unlike the Uk where the unemployed are entitled to income support in the form of job seekers allowance or sick benefit, unemployed Nigerians women are at the mercy of their parents or boyfriends, making them easy targets for sex trafficking.
Investigators were told that the women had taken part in “juju” or black magic rituals before leaving Nigeria, during which they had to promise to repay the money for their passage to Europe.