Press release

Gang leader jailed over trafficked girls

A Nigerian woman has been sentenced to 22 years in prison for attempting to traffic Nigerian girls through Heathrow Airport to work as sex workers in brothels across Europe.

Franca Asemota, 38, from Benin City, fled from Italy to Nigeria when some of her co-conspirators were arrested by Immigration Enforcement in 2012.

But the National Crime Agency tracked her down to Nigeria and she was extradited back to the UK in January this year.

Minister for Vulnerability, Safeguarding and Countering Extremism, Sarah Newton said:

Modern slavery is an inhuman crime. The victims in this case were manipulated, intimidated and told they could be killed if they tried to alert the authorities.

The UK has taken world leading action through the Modern Slavery Act. Prosecutions for modern slavery offences are rising and there was a 40% increase in the number of victims identified in 2015.

But we must not stop there. That is why the Prime Minister has set up the first ever government taskforce on modern slavery, pledged more than £33 million in funding to help victims from countries including Nigeria, and established a Child Trafficking Protection Fund.

As this case demonstrates, the criminals behind this evil trade will be caught and face significant sentences.

David Fairclough, from 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.

Trafficking is a despicable crime, as this case shows. We work closely with our law enforcement colleagues internationally to identify the criminal gangs responsible and put them before the courts.

Asemota travelled with the victims on flights from Lagos, Nigeria, to Heathrow with the intention of reaching France. They remained airside during the transit at Heathrow so were not subject to Border Force passport checks. The trafficking attempts were prevented when French authorities identified the girls’ false documents on arrival in France. When they were then returned to the UK, Border Force officers carried out further investigations and the case was quickly referred to Immigration Enforcement.

The cases are part of Operation Hudson, an Immigration Enforcement-led investigation targeting organised crime groups suspected of trafficking young women for the purposes of sexual exploitation.

Dave Fairclough (Immigration Enforcement) talks about the sentencing)