Two Nigerian nationals who brought four young women from a deprived background illegally to Ireland to force them to work in prostitution and exploit them, have been sentenced to more than five years in jail.
The two women, Alicia Edosa (44) and Edith Enoghaghas (31), were found guilty of human trafficking, prostitution and money laundering in a case believed to be the first conviction of its kind in Ireland. They were found guilty following a six-week trial in June of this year at Mullingar Ciucuit Criminbal Court, and remained in custody until a sentencing hearing today when victim impact statements were heard.
Edosa was sentenced to five years and eight months, while Enoghaghas received a sentence of five years and one month. The Nigerican women lived in Mullingar which they used as a base for illegal trafficking and prostitution activities
Enoghaghase’s husband, Omonuwa Desmond Osaighbovo (30) was also found guilty of four money laundering offences, and was given a suspended sentence of two years and three months for the money laundering convictions.
The trial at Mullingar Circuit Court court heard that four vulnerable young women from Nigeria had been trafficked into Ireland using fake Irish passports to be abused by the accused.
Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions Fiona Murphy SC said that it was a tragic case of exploitation, and that the four women had been led to believe that they were coming to this country to engage in legitimate work.
Ms Murphy told the court that all four women took part in a voodoo ceremony in which they took an oath to the people arranging their journey before leaving Nigeria for Ireland. One woman claimed she was forced to pull the heart out of a chicken as part of the ritual where they were forced to swear they would not try to escape or speak to the authorities in Ireland.
However, when they arrived in Ireland, the women were told they would have to repay the accused “extortionate amounts” by working as prostitutes. The women were then forced to travel to various locations around the country to engage in prostitution. The women were told they owed the defendants sums ranging from €35,000 to €60,000 for arranging their travel to Ireland.
One of the victims told the court that she believed she was coming to Ireland to work as a shop assistant but was then forced into prostitution. She said that she was promised Ireland was “a land of milk and honey” where she could earn up to €3,500 per month doing hair extensions.
The woman said the journey from Nigeria to Ireland in 2016 took six months and that she had been raped in Libya. She also said that if she had collected €1,000 working as a prostitute, she was forced to lodge €990 in a bank and was only permitted to keep €10 for herself leaving her starving at times for days.
“I was like a sex machine and money-making machine for her,” the witness added.
The court heard that one of the women trafficked and forced into prostitution by Edosa revealed she had tried to take her own life as a result of what had happened. “I hated the life Alicia made me live that I tried to kill myself. I lost my pride as a woman, she said in a victim impact statement read out by counsel for the DPP, Fiona Murphy SC.
“I suffered badly from what Alicia did”, the woman said. “I hated the life Alicia made me live that I tried to kill myself. I lost my pride as a woman. I feel ashamed. It is not the way I wanted to live.”
The other woman trafficked by Edosa said she had earned €46,000 “with my sweat and blood” but did not receive “even a dime”, while she still suffered health problems as a result of being involved in forced prostitution. “The wounds inflicted on me will never go away,” she said.
One of Enoghaghase’s victims said she still had scars on her chest from where she was cut with a razor blade during a voodoo ceremony and that she firmly believed the voodoo curse in the ceremony could kill her and her son.
“I was scared all the time and I still feel scared today,” she said.
The trial before Judge Francis Comerford and a jury of ten men and two women lasted over six weeks. Garda Superintendent Dermot Drea thanked the victims for their bravery and appealed to anyone with information on human trafficking to also come forward.
Judge Comerford said the victims of the trafficking ring had become “indentured slaves”.
“They coerced the victims into a sustained and degrading period of prostitution which did great harm to all victims for financial gain,” he said, adding that he had considered the nature of the coercion, the purpose of the trafficking and the damage done to the victims and society. He added there was also a greater need for regulation of services which allowed prostitution to be advertised.
Ruhama, which helps women affected by prostitution, said in June that the conviction was “historic” and served to show victims of sexual exploitation that justice was possible. CEO of Ruhama, Barbara Condon, said the courage and resilience shown by the victims in the court was “staggering”.
“The conviction signals a key milestone in the recovery journey of these women who sought to contribute to justice against their perpetrators” she said.