UK and Spanish authorities have dismantled a human trafficking gang responsible for transporting young Nigerian women into prostitution in Europe.
The operation was jointly carried out by the UK’s Home Office Immigration Enforcement, Border Force and the Spanish National Police.
London’s Heathrow Airport was used by the human trafficking gang as a transit hub to move the women to mainland Europe for the purposes of sexual exploitation. Some of the women were under 18.
The British end of the investigation began in 2011 when Border Force officers at Heathrow intercepted a number of females in transit from Nigeria to mainland Europe.
Immigration Enforcement staff based in Madrid liaised with the Spanish authorities providing intelligence linking some of the victims to a suspected group of traffickers operating in Spain.
They identified 48 potential victims of the trafficking network.
The Spanish leg of the investigation culminated in the arrests of seven alleged traffickers in the cities of Madrid and Lérida in September 2013. Two female victims were also rescued.
Because of legal restrictions in Spain details of the arrests there can only now be made public, but last year two men were convicted in the UK as a result of the investigation.
In March 2013, following an investigation also involving Sussex Police, Odosa Usiobaifo from Enfield was jailed for 14 years for his role in the trafficking of 14 and 15-year-old Nigerian girls whom he put on flights to Spain from London.
The following October David Osawaru, from Benin City, Nigeria, was jailed for nine years. He had been detained by Border Force at Heathrow in May 2012 as he chaperoned two Nigerian women in transit from Lagos to Prague.
Clinton Nield, assistant director of Home Office Immigration Enforcement’s Risk and Liaison Overseas Network (RALON), said: “Thanks to our close co-operation with the Spanish National Police and other law enforcement agencies in the UK and Europe we have successfully stopped a criminal network who actively targeted and manipulated vulnerable young women.
“These women were given false promises and forced to travel to Europe where they were forced into prostitution. Trafficking is an abhorrent crime and I hope this case sends a clear message to those involved overseas that international borders will not stop us from tracking you down and bringing you to justice.”
James Brokenshire, Security Minister, said: “We are working closely with international law enforcement agencies to deter individuals falling prey to criminal gangs and disrupt slavery routes coming to the UK.
“In addition to strengthening our response overseas, we are introducing a Modern Slavery Bill later this year which will send the strongest possible message to criminals, if you are involved in this appalling crime you will be arrested, you will be prosecuted and you will be locked up.”