A Nigerian, Franca Asemota, was on Thursday, sentenced to 22 years in prison after being found guilty of attempting to traffic Nigerian girls through Heathrow Airport to work as sex workers in brothels across Europe.
She was earlier convicted on Wednesday at Isleworth Crown Court on 12 counts of conspiracy to traffic persons for sexual exploitation, trafficking persons outside of the United Kingdom for sexual exploitation and assisting unlawful immigration.
Five victims were said to have given evidence against her during the trial.
Detectives told the court she was part of a criminal network that trafficked girls, boys and women from Nigeria to Europe using threats to guarantee their compliance.
Asemota was arrested by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission in Benin in March 2015 and was later extradited back to the UK in January this year.
According to the prosecution, she travelled with the victims on flights from Lagos to Heathrow, between August 2011 and May 2012, with the intention of reaching France.
Prosecution said the victims remained airside during the transit at Heathrow and were not subjected to Border Force passport checks.
David Fairclough of the Immigration Enforcement crime team said, “Asemota was the lynchpin of a trafficking ring which targeted vulnerable young women in Nigeria, promising them a brighter future working in Europe. But it soon became clear that this was far from the truth.
“The victims, some as young as 13, were told they would be sold into prostitution. Asemota travelled with the girls in order to threaten them and keep them in line,” he said.
Also, the head of the UK Human Trafficking Centre, Martin French, stated that, “Franca Asemota and her criminal network took advantage of these vulnerable young women in some of the worst ways possible. They promised them a better life but in reality treated them as nothing more than a commodity to be sold into slavery.
“Asemota thought she could evade arrest by fleeing Europe and hiding in Nigeria. But the NCA’s partnerships give us global reach and mean international borders are no barrier to justice.”