Two women who ran a prostitution ring from a base in Co Westmeath have been found guilty of human trafficking in what is believed to be the first conviction of its type in Ireland.
Alicia Edosa (44) and Edith Enoghaghase (31), were each found guilty on two counts of trafficking women from Nigeria into Ireland on dates between September 2016 and June 2018 contrary to the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 at Mullingar Circuit Criminal Court.
The jury found Edosa not guilty on two other counts of human trafficking following the six-week trial.
Edosa, of The Harbour, Market Point, Mullingar, and Enoghaghase of Meeting House Lane, Mullingar, were also each convicted of a single offence of organising prostitution as well as a series of money laundering offences.
Enoghaghase’s husband, Omonuwa Desmond Osaighbovo (30), was found not guilty of a charge of prostitution but guilty of four money laundering offences.
All three were found not guilty of the commission of an offence for a criminal organisation contrary to the Criminal Justice Act 2006.
The trial heard evidence from four women who claimed they were forced into prostitution in Ireland after undergoing a voodoo ceremony in their native Nigeria in what the prosecution claimed was a “tragic” case of exploitation.
The victims, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, provided dramatic evidence of long journeys from Nigeria via north Africa and southern Europe before arriving in Ireland.
Counsel for the defendants had claimed the victims had made false allegations against the accused in order to secure their rights to remain in Ireland.
One witness gave evidence that she was trafficked into Ireland on a promise by Edosa of earning up to €3,500 per month by working as a shop assistant but was forced into prostitution within days of arriving in Ireland, which had been described to her as “the land of milk and honey”.
The 26-year-old mother of one said she had felt betrayed by Edosa who had arranged her travel from Nigeria to Ireland via Libya and Italy.
She recounted how she had been raped in Tripoli and used a false Irish passport to get through immigration at Dublin Airport.
‘Sex machine ’
The trial heard that Edosa had kept €44,000 of the woman’s earnings while also threatening to kill her son and entire family back in Nigeria if she did not follow instructions.
“I was like a sex machine and money-making machine for her,” the witnesssaid. She told the trial that if she collected €1,000, she was only allowed to keep €10 for herself which sometimes left her starving for days.
The woman told counsel for the DPP, Fiona Murphy SC, that she would never have left Nigeria if she knew that she would end up working as a prostitute in Ireland.
The trial heard the woman worked in various locations around the country including Limerick, Cork, Galway, Castlebar, Navan, Athlone, Letterkenny, Cavan and Dundalk.
Judge Francis Comerford remanded Edosa and Enoghaghase in custody until a sentencing hearing later this year when victim impact statements will be heard.
The judge granted an application by Osaighbovo for bail conditions to be extended for the father of three despite an objection by gardaí who said there was a concern he would abscond from the jurisdiction before his next court appearance.
Outside the courthouse, Supt Dermot Drea, who led the investigation into human trafficking, expressed hope that the first convictions for the offence under the 2008 legislation would encourage other victims and people with information on the crime to come forward to gardaí.
“The actions of those convicted are all about making money regardless of the consequences of the victims,” said Supt Drea.
He praised the bravery and perseverance of the victims in what he described as “a lengthy and complex investigation.”