Twenty-four persons suspected of being part of a sex trafficking ring forcing Nigerian women into prostitution in France went on trial on 6 November in the city of Lyon. Among them is Jessica Edosomwan, Europe’s most wanted woman, who is being tried in absentia. Here’s why the Nigerian was declared by Europol (European Police Office) as its most wanted female suspect.
Jessica Edosomwan is currently wanted for prosecution by the French judicial authorities in an international case of human trafficking and smuggling network. She is alleged to be a member of a criminal network from Nigeria, operating in all the major cities in France.
The organisation is alleged to have recruited young girls from small towns in Nigeria by promising to fund their journey to Western Europe. Once they contracted this debt, the girls were allegedly subjected to a religious (juju) rite, which “provided the criminal network leader, often a religious, a strong psychological hold and a means of pressure on their families in the country”.
When they arrived in France, the young Nigerian girls had to pay a debt of 50,000 to 60,000 euros each. They were then entrusted to an older woman who was in charge of supervising them and collecting the money.
The victims, housed and fed in bad conditions at exorbitant prices, were then prostituted in streets or trucks. The money was recovered and sent back to Nigeria through a traditional informal payment system.
Prosecutors estimate that 17 alleged victims, aged 17 to 38, made up to 150,000 euros a month for the syndicate, selling sex for as little as 10 euros.
Most of the women come from Benin City, a centre of human trafficking, and many told investigators they had made the dangerous journey across the Sahara Desert to Libya, then across the Mediterranean to Italy before ending up in Lyon.
According to the investigations conducted by the French judicial police, 24 persons were involved in this criminal network. Among them is Jessica Edosomwan, who’s accused of recruiting women for the sex trade in Lyon, Nimes and Montpellier.
According to Jacques Croly Labourdette, head of the National Fugitive Research Brigade (BNRF), Jessica Edosomwan was a “mama” of this network. As such, the suspect “cared for girls” but also had the mission to find new recruits in Nigeria. She is also alleged to be involved in the transfer and money laundering in Nigeria.
Jessica Edosomwan is reported by Europol, the official intelligence agency of the European Union, to have been on the run since 2017 and could be hiding in France, Germany or Belgium. A European arrest warrant was issued against her in November 2017.