A woman suspected of being a ringleader in a sex trafficking gang that used Heathrow to smuggle children into Europe has been arrested in Nigeria.
Police held Franca Asemota, 36, on suspicion of money-laundering offences in an operation co-ordinated by the National Crime Agency.
She is facing extradition to Britain, where she is wanted for organising a network that trafficked young women — most aged under 18 — from remote Nigerian villages into Europe using Heathrow airport as a transit hub.
The girls were promised education or jobs such as hairdressing in countries including France and Spain but were forced into prostitution.
Some were raped and the traffickers were said to have used witchcraft to terrify their victims so they would not talk to police.
Asemota, who was arrested in Benin City, is accused of accompanying about 40 victims on eight separate flights into Heathrow between 2011 and 2012.
A European arrest warrant was issued for her when she was thought to be in Italy but she is believed to have fled to Nigeria, where the NCA traced her.
The NCA said: “Asemota’s arrest was the result of exceptional collaboration with our partners at home and in Nigeria.
“This operation demonstrates our global reach and our determination to track those wanted in the UK, no matter where in the world they are.”
A Nigerian member of the trafficking ring, Odosa Usiobaifo, of Enfield, was jailed for 14 years by Isleworth crown court in 2013 for conspiring to traffic for sex exploitation.
Last October David Osawaru, of Nigeria, was jailed for nine years for chaperoning two women in transit to Prague. He had been arrested by Border Force officers at Heathrow.
London Evening Standard