Viewing cable 02ABUJA496

02ABUJA4962002-02-14 10:03:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Abuja
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A 
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 
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 
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 
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