A Nigerian pastor and 23 other suspected members of a sex trafficking ring accused of forcing Nigerian women into prostitution in France, went on trial Wednesday, in France.
Many of their victims were women and girls lured to Europe with false promises of jobs as hairdressers or seamstresses, only to find themselves selling sex on arrival to repay their debts.
The investigation in Lyon, where police estimate half the city’s sex workers are Nigerian, began after authorities received a tip about a Nigerian pastor accused of exploiting several sex workers who lived in apartments he owned.
The pastor, Stanley Omoregie, has denied the charges, which include aggravated pimping and slavery. But in the transcript of a conversation submitted to the court, he is heard saying he wanted “those with beautiful bodies, who can be controlled, not those that cause problems.”
The prosecution has presented him as the kingpin of a family-based syndicate made up of 10 women and 14 men, including one of Europe’s most wanted women, Jessica Edosomwan, accused of recruiting destitute women in Nigeria for the sex trade in Lyon, Nimes and Montpellier.
Edosomwan, who is believed to be on the run in the Benelux countries, Italy or Germany, will be tried in absentia. Prosecutors estimate that 17 alleged victims, aged 17 to 38, made up to $166,000 a month for the syndicate, selling sex for as little as 10 euros.
Most of the women come from #Benin, #EdoState and many of them told investigators they had taken part in “juju” or black magic rituals before leaving Nigeria, during which they promised to repay the money they owed for their passage to Europe.
Many of the woman took the perilous migrant trail across the Sahara Desert to Libya and then across the Mediterranean to Italy before winding up in Lyon.
Among the accused is a 28-year-old former prostitute who was herself released from sex slavery after paying off her debts and who in turn brought over another young woman from Nigeria. They risk 10 years in jail if convicted. 📷: ROMAIN LAFABREGUE / AFP