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Cablegate: Profile of a Nigerian Sex Trafficking Ring

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS E F T O SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 000496

SIPDIS


AIDAC
NOFORN
SENSITIVE


DEPT FOR G/TIP, INL/AAE, INR/TNC, AF/RA AND DRL
PASS AID FOR G/WID-LYDAY
DOL FOR ILAB-ZOLLNER


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KCRM KWMN PHUM PREF NI GN
SUBJECT: PROFILE OF A NIGERIAN SEX TRAFFICKING RING

1.(SBU/NF) A key prosecution witness in the case of 33
trafficked Nigerian girls and women rescued in Conakry,
Guinea in July 2001 approached the Embassy for assistance and
was debriefed by the RSO and RNLEO. The witness, a resident
of Benin City, Edo State, is married to a German woman and
until August 2001 was living and working as a taxi driver in
Conakry.


2.(SBU/NF) The witness explained that his cousin from Benin
City, who had always represented himself as a shoe salesman,
had invited the witness to visit Conakry, where the cousin
often traveled. Upon arrival in Conakry in early 2001, the
witness did not find his cousin but decided to make ends meet
by working as a taxi driver while waiting for his cousin to
arrive. He never met his cousin in Conakry but he stumbled
upon the cousin's true profession.


3.(SBU/NF) While working in Conakry, the witness met a number
of Nigerian women who had been trafficked previously but were
now on their own in Guinea. Some identified his cousin as a
major trafficker of girls and women from Edo State, Nigeria
to Spain and Italy. From talking to Nigerian women in
Conakry, the witness learned of a large group of Nigerian
girls and women who were being detained in a Conakry house by
a ring of Nigerian traffickers. Some of the girls were as
young as 13. After notifying the Nigerian Embassy in
Conakry, he and the Nigerian Embassy were able to orchestrate
a Guinean police raid of the house, and 33 girls and women
were found. They had been detained there for several weeks.
15 Nigerian traffickers, including a former Police
Commissioner of Edo State, were arrested and later extradited
to Nigeria, where they now face trial (in which the witness
will play a key role).


4.(SBU/NF) The witness was flown out of Conakry with the
rescued trafficking victims aboard a Nigerian Air Force plane
on August 17. The witness helped Guinean police interview
the trafficked victims immediately after their rescue and he
also helped with interrogations of the traffickers arrested
and later (November 2001) extradited to Nigeria. The witness
has now become an essential part of the Federal Government's
prosecution of the 15 traffickers; he has been declared a
"protected witness" by the Special Assistant to the President
for Human Trafficking and Child Labor, Mike Mku, though that
protection has been weak at best.


5.(SBU/NF) Unfortunately, though this case received President
Obasanjo's personal attention, a lack of federal resources
for the protection of trafficking victims resulted in the
release of the 33 rescued victims to their homes in Edo State
after 60 unhappy days of confinement in a Lagos police
facility, while the Federal government attempted
unsuccessfully to find long-term care and vocational training
for the girls and women. According to the witness, who later
saw and talked with some of the victims back in Benin City,
about half of the 33 have already been re-trafficked to
Europe.


The Conakry Connection
----------------------


6.(SBU/NF) According to the witness, the Nigerian sex
trafficking trade is heavily entrenched in Conakry, where
genuine Guinean passports are easy to obtain through
fraudulent means and the Guinean police seem to tolerate the
lucrative human trade provided it not become a security
problem. After airlines and European immigration began
targeting the movement of trafficked girls and women via air
flights directly from Nigeria to Europe, traffickers began
using land routes through West Africa and the Sahara to get
their human cargoes to the brothels of Spain, Italy and the
Netherlands.


7.(SBU/NF) Women the witness interviewed in Conakry and the
victims themselves describe the prevailing trafficking route:
form Edo State through Lagos, Benin Republic, Togo, Ghana,
Cote d'Ivoire and finally, to Conakry. Stops in Cotonou,
Lome, Accra and Abidjan are short and the traffickers have
accomplices with safe houses in these West African capitals.
Once in Conakry, the girls wait as long as a month while
fraudulently-obtained passports and other Guinean documents
are prepared for their onward journey. Sometimes they are
pressed into servicing the local sex trade during this wait.
According to the witness, a great benefit of the Guinean
passport is that its holders do not need a visa for Morocco.


8.(SBU/NF) Once a group of about 20-30 girls is ready for
onward movement, they are led by traffickers to Bamako, and
across the Sahara to Algiers, and from Algiers to Casablanca.
From interviews of women who had made the journey and been
caught in Spain -- and expelled back to Guinea -- the journey
through the desert takes two-three weeks and several girls
out of each group die along the way from heat exhaustion.
The traffickers reportedly own property in Bamako, Algiers
and Casablanca, which they use to house trafficked girls and
women in transit.


Trade Union for Traffickers?
----------------------------


9.(SBU/NF) The witness claims that 200-300 girls and women
had moved through Conakry along this route in the two to
three months preceding the July 2001 rescue of the 33. At
least 1,000 sex trafficking victims pass through Conakry a
year, he estimates. So deeply entrenched is the Nigerian
trafficking network in Conakry that the organization has a
"trade union" to protect them from government
anti-trafficking efforts and provide them with top-quality
legal services if they get in trouble. Even before the
traffickers were extradited from Guinea, a lawyer was
enlisted to defend them in Nigeria.


10.(SBU/NF) Once in Casablanca, the traffickers arrange for
small boats to carry the Nigerian girls and women from the
Moroccan coast to "Suta Island," purportedly a Spanish
possession near Gibraltar. This boat trip is dangerous, as it
is usually made at night to avoid Spanish and Moroccan naval
patrols, and trafficking victims sometimes fall overboard and
drown. Those who make it successfully to Spain without being
detected by Spanish security personnel are either put to work
in Spanish brothels or moved overland to Italy for work
there. According to the witness, these brothels are operated
by Nigerian traffickers or former trafficked girls and women
who have survived, paid off their debts of over $50,000 and
managed to graduate to brothel-operator status.


11.(SBU/NF) The witness claims his life is in danger as the
group of traffickers awaiting trial is extremely powerful and
has sent him a number of death threats. The witness claims
that the traffickers' lawyer visited him in his Benin City
home and warned him against being a witness for the federal
government in this case. Shortly thereafter, his uncle was
beaten up and a relative's house was burned to the ground;
following these developments, he and his immediate family
boarded up their house and fled Benin City. Confirming the
common impression of Benin City, the witness claimed it is a
hub or organized crime, particularly human traffickers.


12.(SBU/NF) The witness claimed his is now living on the
streets of Abuja, surviving on the little assistance the
federal government can give him and any other sources of
charity he can find. He asked the Embassy for assistance and
for asylum in the U.S. RSO and RNLEO explained that this
trafficking case does not involve the United States, and
therefore the USG cannot play a role in the prosecution or
his protection. RNLEO acceded to the witness' request,
however, that an Embassy representative attend the March 23
opening of the criminal trial in the federal High Court
(Lagos) to show that the international community has an
interest in seeing justice served in this landmark case.
RNLEO also agreed to raise the witness' plight with Mike Mku.
(Note: Mku Later told RNLEO that he greatly values the
witness' cooperation and crucial role in the prosecution of
the 15 traffickers but cannot obtain sufficient funds to
protect the witness in a hotel or other safe location. End
note.)
Jeter

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