One year after she was arrested over allegations of money laundering using funds from trafficking of minors, a Nigerian businesswoman and fugitive from Edo state, Ms Franca Asemota is to be extradited to the United Kingdom to face criminal charges.
The order to extradite Asemota to the UK was handed down by Justice Abdul Kafarati of the Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja. She is wanted by the UK government for trafficking of minors to Europe through London.
She was accused of allegedly organising the network that trafficked young women, mostly teenagers, most aged under 18 — from remote Nigerian villages into Europe using Heathrow airport as transit hub.
She was arrested from New Benin, Benin City, Edo state by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, on March 24, 2015, and on arrest, checks on her profile revealed that she had been on the wanted list of the UK National Crime Agency.
She stands accused of accompanying about 40 girls as victims on eight separate flights into Heathrow between 2011 and 2012. The girls were promised education or jobs such as hairdressing in countries including France and Spain but were forced into prostitution.
Some were raped and the traffickers were said to have used witchcraft to terrify their victims so they would not talk to police.
A European arrest warrant was issued for her when she was thought to be in Italy but she is believed to have fled to Nigeria, where she was traced.
The UK National Crime Agency said: “Asemota’s arrest was the result of exceptional collaboration with our partners at home and in Nigeria. This operation demonstrates our global reach and our determination to track those wanted in the UK, no matter where in the world they are.”
A Nigerian member of the trafficking ring, Odosa Usiobaifo, of Enfield, was jailed for 14 years by Isleworth crown court in 2013 for conspiring to traffic for sex exploitation.
Last October David Osawaru, of Nigeria, was jailed for nine years for chaperoning two women in transit to Prague. He had been arrested by Border Force officers at Heathrow.
When the case came up on January 11, 2015, Ms. Asemota’s counsel, Ugochukwu Ezekiel, prayed the court to grant his client bail to enable her seek medical attention as she had spent almost a year in custody.
But Akuta Pius Ukeyima, from the office of the Attorney General of the Federation, however opposed the application, saying it would be better to ask for a short date for ruling on the substantive matter.
Consequently, Justice Kafarati adjourned to Wednesday for ruling And on this date, granted the extradition request and ordered that the accused be extradited to the United Kingdom to face trial for the charges filed against her.