A court has sentenced a Nigerian woman to three years in jail and deportation from Switzerland for trafficking several Nigerian women and enslaving them as sex workers using juju magic threats.
On Thursday, the Lausanne Correctional Court found the 36-year-old Nigerian woman guilty of human trafficking, money laundering and violating Swiss foreigners’ law. She was sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to pay fine of CHF1,800 ($1,812). The court ruled she should be deported from Switzerland after completing her sentence and banned from returning for a period of eight years.
The woman was a sex worker herself and was known to clients as Christina. She was found guilty of recruiting four girls aged 16 to 18 from the same village in Nigeria with the help of her brother. The girls were lured with promises of studying opportunities and cleaning jobs.
However, before they left for Europe, they were kidnapped and held at her brother’s house and forced to undergo a threatening ritual “juju” ceremony. The voodoo practice involves casting a spell on Nigerian women who are headed north with the goal of frightening them to settle their debts.
The defendant, who has worked as a prostitute between Bern and Biel since 2012, was staying illegally in Switzerland. She paid for the women to be sent from Nigeria to the Italian city of Milan with the help of Nigerian intermediaries.
The four recruits crossed the Mediterranean on a boat with 150 other people. Christina then took them by train from Milan to Lausanne in 2016. The women were forced to work as prostitutes and hand over their earnings to reimburse the cost of their journey to Switzerland from Nigeria.
One of the victims told the court that Christina had asked her to repay CHF35,000 and threatened her that the “juju” would be invoked against her if she fled or contacted the police.
"She and her brothers told me that if I didn’t do what they said they would kill me with the juju,” the Nigerian victim, now aged 20, told the court on Tuesday.
The defendant denied the charges. She said the thousands of francs sent back to Nigeria and used to build a house for her brother was money she had earned herself as a prostitute.
Prostitution is a regulated trade in Switzerland, but trafficking, forcing people into prostitution and most forms of pimping are illegal. Sex trafficking cases rarely come to court in Switzerland.