Earlier this month, Nigeria’s National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) was forced to deny allegations it had hired witch doctors to help prevent young women being smuggled out of the country to work as prostitutes in Europe. While admitting the agency is attempting to engage with as many sections of society as possible in order to gain a better understanding of the role they play in the country’s massive problem with human trafficking and modern slavery, NAPTIP head of press Josiah Emerole claimed the organisation had merely spoken with witch doctors in an effort to dissuade them from placing voodoo curses on people smugglers’ victims. Juju oaths are routinely used by traffickers to make their victims believe they or a member of their family will come to some sort of serious harm or die if they fail to comply with their captors’ demands. Where the NAPTIP once arrested priests known to have carried out these types of rituals, the agency now seeks to “sensitise” them to the harm they cause by brainwashing trafficking victims, Emerole said. Whether or not this new approach will be of any benefit whatsoever remains to be seen, but what is clear is that the Nigerian government’s attempts to stop vulnerable young women being trafficked out of the country after being put through juju rituals have so far failed spectacularly.
For years now, law enforcement authorities across Europe and beyond have reported rescuing petrified young Nigerian women who have been put through horrific juju rituals before being smuggled into brothels and forced to sell their bodies for sex. Rather than declining, evidence suggests the rate at which traffickers are abusing these women is on the rise, fuelled in no small part by the ongoing Mediterranean migrant crisis. Only last week, police in Spain and the UK said they had arrested 12 people suspected of being members of an international human trafficking network that used juju magic to control the young women it exploited. The gang is said to have pulled out victims’ pubic hair and forced them to eat raw chicken as part of voodoo rituals before trafficking them to brothels mostly situated in Italy and Spain. No more than a few weeks earlier, Spanish police rescued 16 Nigerian women who had been trafficked into the country before being forced to work as prostitutes. Prior to being taken from their home country, the women were reported to have been put through ritualistic juju ceremonies, during which they were made to believe they would suffer death, insanity or serious illness if they disobeyed their captors, refused to sell their bodies or went to the police.
The fear these voodoo rituals instil is so strong and pervasive that victims have been known to escape protective custody after being rescued in a bid to return to their captors, petrified that breaking the oath they had sworn would damn either them or their close family members to death. The hold the curses have on victims can also make it incredibly difficult for police to build a case against members of people smuggling gangs, who use juju magic to convince the vulnerable young women they exploit that cooperating with authorities will result the oath they have sworn being broken. As a consequence, it is rare for members of Nigerian trafficking gangs to be brought to justice in Europe and other parts of the world in which they operate.
In a rare example of juju traffickers being successfully convicted, a UK court jailed two people smugglers for a total of 10 years for forcing their victims to work as prostitutes in November 2014. Lizzy Idahosa and her partner Jackson Omoruyi were found guilty of inciting prostitution and money laundering at Cardiff Crown Court. One of the pairs’ victims explained how she was cut with a razor, forced to drink dirty water and made to eat snakes and snails during a juju ritual designed to make her believe she would suffer illness, madness, infertility or death if she failed to comply with her captors’ demands. In August 2016, a Dutch court sentenced a Nigerian-born man to seven years behind bars after convicting him of leading an international prostitution ring that used voodoo magic to control its victims. Peter Kwame S and his associates trafficked underage Nigerian girls to the Netherlands after putting them through voodoo rituals in Nigeria to make them swear an oath that they would not go to the police.
The infrequency with which members of Nigerian juju trafficking gangs are brought to justice in Europe and beyond sadly makes these examples remarkable, and in no way indicative of the scale of the problem. In 2016, the International Organisation for Migration estimated that 80% of Nigerian teenage girls and young women who arrived in Italy that year were victims of sex trafficking and exploitation. It is likely many of them were destined to be transported onto brothels in other EU countries. While European law enforcement agencies work hard to safeguard young women and girls unfortunate enough to fall victim to these gangs, the very nature of the “curses” placed upon them make it very difficult to bring traffickers to justice. As such, it is now vital that greater efforts are made to stop the problem at source. Instead of attempting to “sensitise” witch doctors to the harm they are causing by placing juju curses on traffickers’ victims, Nigerian lawmakers should concentrate their efforts on pursing the prosecution of everybody involved in this barbaric trade at their end.
Iran threatens to flood Europe with drugs and migrants following US sanctions
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has threatened to flood Europe with heroin, migrants and terrorists in revenge for sanctions imposed on the country by the US over Tehran’s nuclear weapons programme.
Addressing a six-nation counter-terrorism conference in Tehran attended by lawmakers from Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, China and Russia over the weekend, Rouhani told delegates that crippling US sanctions would prevent Iran’s security services from stopping drug traffickers and people smugglers targeting western countries, noting how the criminal groups behind such trades are often linked to terrorist groups.
In a speech that was carried by state TV, Rouhani said: “Weakening Iran by sanctions, many will not be safe. Those who do not believe us, it is good to look at the map.”
He added: “Imagine what a disaster there would be if there is a breach in the dam.
“I warn those who impose sanctions that if Iran’s ability to fight drugs and terrorism are affected…, you will not be safe from a deluge of drugs, asylum seekers, bombs and terrorism.”
While Iran is by no means a major drug-producing nation, large quantities of opium pass through the country on major smuggling routes that link Afghanistan and Pakistan with Europe.
Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of opium, the primary ingredient of heroin, with Helmand Province, which is close to the border with Iran, being the country’s largest opium-producing region.
Iran claims to incinerate around 100 tonnes of seized drugs every year as a symbol of its determination to halt the flow of narcotics through trafficking routes that cross its borders.
In June 2017, Iranian media reported that drug addiction across the country had more than doubled over the previous six years, with research showing that approximately 2.8 million Iranians were regularly consuming drugs.
Iran also serves as a major hub on a number of people smuggling routes used by migrants looking to make their way to Turkey.
Many of these asylum seekers pay large sums of money to people smuggling gangs, some of which are thought to be closely linked to terrorist organisations.
Over recent weeks, scores of mostly Iranian migrants have been picked in flimsy boats while attempting to cross the English Channel from the French border town of Calais.
Rouhani said worsening economic conditions in Iran brought about by the sanctions had led to an increase in the number of migrants illegally crossing the border from Iran into Turkey since the summer.
Customs officers on US-Mexico border intercept multiple shipments of methamphetamine worth more than $1.2 million
US customs officers in California yesterday said they had arrested multiple people on suspicion of smuggling methamphetamine into the US at an immigration checkpoint close to the Mexican border over the weekend.
In the first incident, officials from US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) pulled over an unlicensed taxi carrying a female passenger on Saturday morning.
The vehicle was referred for a detailed inspection, during which a sniffer dog alerted officers to the possibility of drugs being present around the passenger side of the vehicle.
After asking the female passenger to step out of the taxi, officers discovered three packages of suspected methamphetamine weighing approximately 1.8kgs strapped to her stomach.
Later on Saturday, a female driver was stopped in a Nissan Altima.
During a secondary search of her vehicle, sniffer dogs alerted their handlers to 17 packages of suspected methamphetamine weighing more than 10kgs wrapped in brown tape close to the dashboard.
On Sunday morning, a US woman who approached the checkpoint in a Nissan Altima was found by customs officers to be carrying several packages containing suspected methamphetamine weighing nearly 26kgs hidden beneath the vehicle’s floorboard.
A few hours later on Sunday evening, another unlicensed taxi that approached the checkpoint was referred for further inspection.
This resulted in the discovery of a black package containing nearly 1.5kgs of suspected methamphetamine strapped to the stomach of a 16-year-old US citizen.
The drugs in all of the packages, which tests later confirmed contained methamphetamine, had a combined weight of nearly 40kgs, and an estimated value of $228,085.
Commenting on the seizures, Chief Patrol Agent Gloria Chavez said: “Our Border Patrol agents from the Indio Station did an outstanding job of interdicting almost 90 pounds of methamphetamine over the weekend.
“Drug smugglers going through our checkpoints will be caught and charged to the fullest extent of the law.”
Separately, the CBP on Monday announced that its officers had intercepted methamphetamine with an estimated street value of more than $992,000 at the Juarez-Lincoln International Bridge in Texas.
The drugs were confiscated on Saturday from a 40-year-old Mexican woman driving a 2012 Nissan Versa.
She was found to be carrying more than 22kgs of methamphetamine before being handed over to agents from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement for further investigation.
“I congratulate our frontline officers for their firm commitment to carry out the CBP mission and protect the public from illegal narcotics,” said Port Director Albert Flores, Laredo Port of Entry.
Police in Europe arrest hundreds in operation targeting euro banknote dark web counterfeiters
Police forces across Europe have participated in a major joint operation targeting euro banknote counterfeiters operating on dark web illicit marketplaces.
A series of Europol-backed days of action, which took place from 19 November to 6 December, involved raids on more than 300 properties in 13 countries, resulting in the arrests of 235 suspects.
During the raids, a number of criminal assets were seized, including €1,500 (£1,713) in cash, a quantity of drugs, electronic devices including smartphones and computers, Bitcoin, and equipment that had been used for the mining of cryptocurrencies.
A number of weapons were also confiscated during the raids, including guns, knives and nunchaku.
German investigators involved in the operation also discovered two cannabis factories, while police in France uncovered an illegal euro counterfeiting print shop, as well as a marijuana planation.
The crackdown was launched after police in Austria dismantled an illegal banknote print shop in the city of Leoben in June of this year.
The owner of the shop is said to have been producing bogus euro banknotes of various denominations before offering them for sale on dark web marketplaces.
It is thought the Austrian counterfeiter sold some 10,000 fake banknotes to customers all over Europe.
After being handed evidence seized during the raid in Austria, Europol analysed data obtained from the alleged counterfeiter’s computer and decided to launch a coordinated operation targeting other bogus banknote traders in a number of EU countries, including Croatia, Cyprus, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and the UK.
Congratulating officers who took part in the operation, Europol Deputy Executive Director of Operations Wil van Gemert said in a statement: “This joint effort highlights that complete anonymity on the internet and the dark net doesn’t exist.
“When you engage in illegal activity online, be prepared to have police knocking on your door sooner or later.
“Europol will continue to assist member states in their efforts of protecting the euro against counterfeiting, both in the real world as in the virtual one.”
Back in September, Europol announced that Polish police had taken down an illegal print shop in Gdansk that had been producing fake €50 banknotes.
The law enforcement agency said the alleged owner of the facility had been selling counterfeits on a number of dark web platforms for many years, and had built up a strong reputation.
He is currently facing up to 25 years behind bars.
- Iran threatens to flood Europe with drugs and migrants following US sanctions
- Customs officers on US-Mexico border intercept multiple shipments of methamphetamine worth more than $1.2 million
- Police in Europe arrest hundreds in operation targeting euro banknote dark web counterfeiters
- European Commission launches list of counterfeiters and pirates targeting EU intellectual property
- Suspect in notorious UK race hate murder jailed for major cannabis-smuggling conspiracy
9 February 2018
9 February 2018
8 February 2018
28 November 2017
28 November 2017
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