A London-based nurse has been jailed for trafficking Nigerian women into Germany to work as prostitutes after subjecting them to “voodoo” rituals.
Josephine Iyamu was alleged to have forced five women to swear oaths to hand over money to her during “juju” ceremonies. Iyamu, 51, formerly of Bermondsey, was convicted of arranging or facilitating travel for sexual exploitation and perverting the course of justice.
She was jailed for 14 years at Birmingham crown Court.
With her conviction, Josephine Iyamu becomes the first British national prosecuted for Modern Slavery Act offences after trafficking victims outside the UK.
She was also convicted of perverting the course of justice while on remand, by arranging for relatives of her victims in Nigeria to be arrested.
The court was told how the women were forced to eat chicken hearts, drink blood containing worms, and had powder rubbed into cuts during the rituals.
Sentencing Iyamu, Judge Richard Bond said the 51-year-old showed “a complete disregard for the welfare of the women. He said she had exposed them to a “real and significant” risk of death as they travelled across the Mediterranean on inflatable boats. All five women were rescued from the boat they were traveling on, before being put into a camp in Italy.
The Judge to the convict “You saw them not as living, breathing human beings but as commodities to earn you large sums of money,” he said.
Iyamu was born in Liberia, but became a British citizen in 2009 having been allowed to stay in the UK due to her nursing qualifications. She was known to have declared a modest income of about £4,500 in 2016/17 from her work as an NHS agency nurse.
However, investigators discovered she spent thousands on international air travel and owned a large home in Benin City, Nigeria, complete with servants’ quarters.
Iyamu’s defence counsel John Benson QC told the court his client had “lost everything” as a result of her conviction, including her hope of pursuing a political career in Nigeria.
Her husband, 60-year-old Efe Ali-Imaghodor, was acquitted of doing acts intending to pervert the course of justice.