Humans for Sale, "Dons" Exposed – Security Officials Involved

Humans for Sale, "Dons" Exposed – Security Officials Involved

Tuesday, 29 June, 2010

Six teenage girls sit on a bench in front of a house built with wooden scraps and corrugated roofing sheets at Abossey Okai, a suburb of Accra. From time to time, one of them runs her fingers through her hair and bites her finger nails. Another yawns, followed by a deep sigh from the other. But their boredom would soon be eased.

They have already been sold to pimps in Europe. Next week Wednesday they will be gone, "smuggled" through Ghana’s Kotoka International Airport (KIA) to their pimps.

The Crusading Guide’s eight month-long investigations have uncovered a complex web of thriving human trafficking business in Ghana where the "dons" lure Nigerian, Togolese, Beninois and Burkinabe young girls and sell them into prostitution in Europe after hiding them at secret locations in the Greater Accra and Central Regions of Ghana.

The places where they are hidden include McCarthy Hill, Abossey Okai Zongo, Bethlehem City, Adom City, Budumburam Refugee Camp, Big Apple among others. The girls, mostly minors, are exploited in different ways and employed to perpetrate criminal activities in Europe. They are also often used in pornographic movies.

The trafficking of these girls in Ghana has always been shrouded in secrecy for the past years. It, however, recently took a dramatic twist as profits soared. The business has been institutionalised as the dons now rent apartments and camps to hide the many girls, taking advantage of the lack of enforcement of anti-human trafficking laws.

“In the last few months we have trafficked over one thousand girls mainly from Nigeria and Benin through our Ghana route; the market is very good, the officers understand the business,” said Baba, one of the traffickers who was talking to this reporter disguised as a rich businessman wanting to send some girls to Italy.

Most of these girls end up dying while serving their "mamas" (queen pimps). Before they set off for the trip, they are made to swear an oath of secrecy in a shrine, where they promise never to reveal their mission to anyone.

Luisa, (not her real name) one of the many girls who was trafficked to Italy through Ghana, told this reporter in Benin City, Nigeria, that most of her friends died in Italy as they engaged in this sex trade.

“I used to sleep with over 25 men a day. When I became fed up and decided not to work, my madam in Turin (one of her three bases in Italy) beat me up with a belt. She would also starve me and threaten me with deportation," she said.

"A lot of my friends died at the Rome and Milan bases where we used to rotate. We went through a lot of mental torture and physical abuse right from Ghana. The traffickers were sleeping with us at their whim. I was raped several times and have undergone several crude abortions.” At this stage, Luisa then ran her hand through her hair, bowed and showed a big scar on her scalp.

“It was stitched in Milan after Cardozo, one of the foolish men who used to violently rape me, hit my head with a broken bottle," she narrated at her house in Benin City. Luisa also disclosed how Ghanaian security officials helped her group of 16 girls to cross to Spain, France and Italy.

Luisa’s indictment of Ghanaian security officials is supported by evidence available to the Crusading Guide. Investigations indicated that some security officials at the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) had been doing brisk business by illegally charging fees to allow the trafficked girls to use the country’s airport as transit to their destinations in Europe to carry out their sex trade.

Orakwe Arinze, spokesman for the National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons (NAPTIP), told this reporter in his Abuja office, Nigeria, that his country was fighting to uproot human trafficking, adding that shelters had been built in the major states in Nigeria where victims are given support and also equipped with skills to move on in life.

Babandede, director of investigations for NAPTIP, maintained that his country’s security agencies were on a high alert to weed out traffickers, hence the prosecution of many of them in recent times. "We are breaking through their syndicate," he added.

How Some Ghanaian Security Officers Help in the Sale

At the Kotoka International Airport (KIA), some Ghanaian immigration officers charge between 1500 and 1000 dollars per girl before they allow traffickers to carry their victims through.

Many of these officers are said to have enriched themselves through this business, which has been nicknamed "abacha". This reporter has obtained video, audio, and still pictures of many immigration officials not only bargaining how much money to take, but also explaining how they share the money with some national security personnel and aviation security officials stationed at the airport.

This is a short transcript of what transpired between this reporter and two of the officers.

Immigration officer, Kotoka International Airport, Ghana, discussing a trip with six girls to France and the cost (with reporter disguised as trafficker).

Film begins with reporter walking through the bush looking for an immigration official. A tree shows for a while then a hand interrupts the scene as the reporter walks along, billboards of Kotoka International Airport as well as Ghana’s National Flag is shown.

Sounds of vehicles and human voices are heard as the reporter keeps moving until he meets the immigration official. The conversation begins as follows:

Reporter: I called the boy; he said they are six so how can you reduce the price for us?

Official: But the six, all of them cannot go at the same time, today two, the next three.

Reporter: That’s why we are saying you have to beat the price down.

Official: If all of them go it will backfire.

Reporter: That’s why we are saying that you have to beat the price down. So, if they are six how much will you take?

Official: We are doing the thing individually, that’s why I’m saying all of them cannot go one day. If all of them go one day the thing will backfire, are you getting me? All of them would not go one day. So today two will go, the next day three will go.

Reporter: So what do you recommend, is it the Emirate Airline which is the best?

Official: So far Emirates is the best so if they are ready the first batch can go next Sunday because Sunday I will be for post-departure. But as for Saturday I would have said it should start on Saturday but Saturday, no Emirates. Emirates don’t fly on Saturdays.

Reporter: They will go on Sunday.

Official: Sunday, Monday that is next week, some people can go next week Sunday. Then the next two weeks, Monday.

Reporter: So beat the price down so that I can come and see you maybe on Monday. 1,500 US dollars is expensive.

Official: (Raises his voice). Do you know, do you know how much they take? We are even considering you and you say 1,500 dollars is too much, so if it’s too much how much will you give me?

Reporter: Is 1,000 dollars okay so that the six would be six thousand. I would just collect the money one time (two, two, two).

Officer: (looks into the skies) 6,000 dollars (and then calculates). Okay, 1000 dollars for each.

Another official surfaces.

Reporter: Chairman, officer, Sir, well done.

Official: Den na ekoso Tw) (meaning what is happening?)

Reporter: No, I don’t hear. Am a Nigerian man. I wan see you, I use to fly Virgin Nigeria. My sisters want to fly. They want to go to Germany. (Sound is lost interminently). I want to ask can they go from here?

Official: Are you doubting me?

Reporter: As an officer I cannot doubt you.

Official: Me, if you can pay my money am asking I can carry the whole airport to your house. I can carry. Do you want the critical alarm in your house? Chale come on I can do that.

Reporter: I’ll bring it don’t worry.

Official: I shouldn’t worry. Why should I worry, you are coming.

Reporter: Give me your number.

Official: 0242901439.

Reporter: The name is?

Official: Sam.

Reporter: Sammy.

Official: You can call it anything, am Sam.

Reporter: You see we have someone who has been transporting them but the money is too much, we want to change.

Official: How much are they taking, 1000 dollars? And you think I will take less than that? I am taking 1500 dollars.

Reporter: (sound breaks) My problem is if the visa is genuine. Can you do it?

Official: What’s your problem? Do you have a problem, so come and show it me. Let’s start business.

Reporter: Thank you, okay.

Official: What’s your name?

Reporter: Uche, I’ll call you.

Official: Don’t fear.

Meanwhile, the child protection specialist of the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) Ghana, Eric Appiah Okrah, in a telephone conversation congratulated the Crusading guide newspaper on the story. He added that UNICEF would stand by the security agencies and government to prosecute offenders.

For his part, the counter-trafficking field manager of the International Organisation for Migration, Eric Boakye Piasah, said that human trafficking needs to be combated in Ghana, “We have to nail the perpetrators and their collaborators and push them out of Ghana.

"My outfit together with others are doing our part. The general public must join to combat this lucrative crime.”

Trafficking Syndicate Busted

17 Girls Rescued in Sting Operation, Busted "Don" Was in Bed With One of the Rescued Girls

At 5. 55 am yesterday a combined team of the Ghana police criminal investigative department (CID} and the Crusading Guide smashed one of the hottest human trafficking rings in Ghana, rescuing 17 girls who were on the verge of being sold into prostitution abroad. The girls are between the ages of 19 and 27 years.

The Crusading Guide after its initial investigations led the CID team to the hideout of one of the traffickers and the girls who were about to be trafficked. Thy were living together with the trafficker in a self-contained house at Gbawe, a surburb of Accra. One of the girls was found ‘warming’ the bed of the trafficker at the time of arrival, three others hid themselves under a mattress and five others were packed in one small room with light mattresses on the floor serving as their sleeping place.

Passports, birth certificates, passport pictures and other traveling documents were found in their possession. The CID took away these documents for further investigations.

An earlier operation at Abossey Okai, a suburb of Accra, yielded similar result with the "Don" trafficker confessing that that they were engaged in trafficking the girls to Italy, Spain, France, United Kingdom and elsewhere.

Nine girls were picked up in one room during that operation; some evidence was also gathered when the office of the trafficker was searched by the police. Stella, one of the victims to be trafficked, played a critical role in busting the syndicate.

Their Oath of Secrecy to the "Gods" and the Sting Operatiion

Stella (not her real name) who took this reporter under the name Alhaji Abdul Majeed as her fiancée in the eight-month long investigation helped to unravel some of the mysteries surrounding the operations of the trafficking syndicate in Ghana. She frequented many restaurants and nightclubs with this reporter.

It was on one of such freaky outings with her to Jokers Night Club (Labadi), one of the hottest night clubs in Accra, that she revealed to this reporter, under the influence of alcohol, the use of rituals by their pimp madam, to bind them to their commitment of working hard and paying for their expenses to Europe.

“We are made to swear in a shrine never to disclose our mission to anybody; we are told the curses will end up killing us or get us into the mental hospital if we say anything about the business,” Stella disclosed.

Out of a group of twenty girls, Stella had been left by her "Trolly" ( trafficker) to stay in Ghana for over a year. “Any time I tell him is my turn to go, he brushes the idea aside though he has already been payed 6000 euros for my traveling,” Stella revealed that night.

This reporter convinced her that being a big Alhaji that he is, he knew of a powerful Mallam who could undo the rituals and again work the minds of her Trolly to take her to Spain. This she readily agreed to.

Stella was made to believe that a concoction would be prepared for her to pour at the office of the trafficker. When the concoction was finally prepared, the reporter went together with her to the trafficker’s office.

On the day of the sting operation, this reporter was out there with Stella at Chic’n’ Liken restaurant when the police appeared. Stella without any hesitation helped in tracking the movement of the traffickers. Orake Arinze of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic In Persons (NAPTIP) said in an interview that victims of trafficking should be treated well and not as criminals. See page 2 for pictures of the operation. Please stay tuned for more.

17 Sex Slaves Rescued

Nigerian Govt Intervenes and Takes the Girls Back Home for Counseling

In a swift reaction to save them, the Nigerian government, after negotiations with the Ghana police, has sent the 17 girls who were about to be trafficked into Europe for the sex trade, back to Nigeria for counseling.

This happened through the Nigerian High Commission in Ghana. Two buses were used in transporting the girls to Lagos where they were handed over to the Nigerian National Agency for the Prohibition in Traffic in Persons (NAPTIP).

Speaking in an interview with The Crusading Guide from their Abuja office base, the spokesperson for NAPTIP, Mr Orakwe Arinze, confirmed the safe arrival of the girls in Nigeria.

“The Nigerian government is grateful to the Ghana government and the entire Ghana police service for saving the lives of our 17 nationals. We are touched by your government efforts,” Mr Arinze said in a telephone conversation.

“Again, we are so grateful to The Crusading Guide for its investigations that led to the rescuing of our citizens. They are now on their way to Abuja from Lagos. We are going to counsel them to understand the devastating effects of human trafficking so that they don’t fall victims again,” assured Mr Arinze.

He told this paper that while in Abuja, the girls would stay at the NAPTIP shelters and given some skills after which they would be taken to their various houses and families.

The NAPTIP official added that the fight against human trafficking should be a collective effort of all, calling on civil society to report any suspicious conduct to the police for further investigation.

“Most of the girls end up being traumatised or maimed for the rest of their lives so let’s all rise up against this deadly crime and bring the traffickers to book,” he concluded.

Meanwhile, the deputy head of the Criminal Investigations Department of Ghana, Mr Ken Yeboah has also confirmed the release of the girls to the Nigerian government.

“We took the necessary evidence we needed to take before the 17 girls were released to the Nigerian government. I can assure you the Ghana police has taken this matter very seriously and we would ensure that justice is done,” he said.

ACP Kwesi Fori, head of the public affairs directorate of the Ghana police service, pledged that his outfit would be working together with The Crusading Guide and any other person to fight the illegal trade in future.

He reiterated the fact that the IGP was establishing an anti-trafficking unit solely for investigations and prosecution of human trafficking "Dons".

He also commended the Ivorian police for their assistance in the release of 33 Ghanaians who were also saddled in the trafficking trade.

The police spokesperson also affirmed that those in Ghana engaged in internal trafficking would not be left off the hook by the country’s security agencies.

The Crusading Guide has picked up signals that the traffickers based in Togo had panicked over the crackdown on their colleagues here in Ghana and were desperately trying to hide any evidence before the Togo police get on their neck.

“Yesterday 7 girls were moved from Lome by one of the traffickers to an unknown destination because of what happened in Ghana. They are afraid that the Ghanaian authorities would be liaising with Togolese officials for their arrest,” said Kwame Tefle, our source in Togo.

Please stay tuned for more…

IGP on Warpath

Moves Towards the Establishment of Anti-human Trafficking Unit Within Ghana; Police to Rescue More Girls; Immigration Officials to be Probed.

The Inspector General of Police (IGP), Patrick Kwarteng Acheampong, has taken swift action to establish an anti-human trafficking unit within the Ghana police to combat the trafficking of young girls from West Africa through Ghana, for prostitution in Europe.

At a meeting with this reporter and other senior police personnel, the IGP reiterated the need to flush out the syndicate responsible in Ghana, stressing that it must be a collective effort of both security officials and civil society to combat the human trafficking menace.

In a separate interview, the deputy director of the Police Criminal Investigations Department (CID), ACP Ken Yeboah, intimated that his outfit would thoroughly investigate activities of some officials of the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS) whose names came up in the Crusading Guide investigative report on the trafficking of girls to Europe.

ACP Yeboah affirmed that the police would look into the matter and prosecute accomplices if need be. "We are determined in fighting all who are making this illegal trade thrive in Ghana; nobody would be pardoned,” he warned.

On the welfare of the 17 rescued girls, ACP Yeboah said that he had liaised with the ministry of women and children’s affairs to find a temporary shelter to accommodate them until further notice. He also intimated that the Nigerian High Commission had been notified about the crime since it involves some Nigerians.

When The Crusading Guide was in Abuja, Nigeria, a few months ago in connection with the story, officials of the National Agency For The Prohibition of Traffic In Persons (NAPTIP), told this reporter that they would have the the trafficked victims returned to Nigeria. The details of NAPTIP’s intention has already been forwarded to the Ghana police by The Crusading Guide for negotiations in respect of the girls’ repatriation.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) in its global report, has indicated that more than 32 billion US dollars is being generated as profit annually from exploitation of trafficked women, children and men. It has also stated that the lack of harmonised legislative and investigative strategies within the West Africa sub-region was the biggest problem in fighting the cancer.

ILO director in Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone, Mrs Sinanzeni Chuma Mkandawire, has tagged human trafficking as “the slavery of the 21st century”. The latest ILO report on forced labour indicates that 2.5 million persons are estimated to be trafficked at any point in time, of whom minimum of one third are trafficked for economic purposes.

Mkandawire underscored that the ILO’s Special Action Programme Against Trafficking in West Africa (PATWA) was aimed at addressing the structural aspects of the demand and supply of forced labour and human trafficking in the sub-region.

It will be recalled that The Crusading Guide's eight-month-long investigations into a human trafficking syndicate led to the crackdown of the network, the subsequent arrest of two suspected traffickers and the rescuing of 17 girls who were on the verge of being sold into prostitution in Europe.

Amandi Mohammed, 30, and Kwadwo Boamah Addai, 50, were busted on October 24 and 25, 2007 respectively, in an operation at Abossey Okai and Gbawe, all suburbs of Accra . A third suspect, Mumuni Abdul Latif, alias Tijani, based at Kasoa in the Central Region, escaped. However, some victims of the dastardly trade were rescued at Gbawe. The names of the girls rescued at Abossey Okai were given by the police as Gloria Ebrain, Cynthia Emma, Joyce Samuel, Jennifer Peter, Gifty Ebrain, Lovet Issako, Lucy Ugo, Emmanuel Beauty and Nancy Johnson.

Those rescued at Gbawe included Hope Osagie, Princess Ebabulele, Bola Ayodele, Rosemary Yenni, Vivian Joseph, Becky Asoro, Happy Tom and Blessing Samuel. They are aged between 18 and 25.

A search conducted in Addai’s office and residence by the Ghana police resulted in the retrieval of seven Ghanaian passports, four vaccination certificates, one international driving licence, 59 birth certificates, two Motorola mobile phones, three bank statements, an invitation letter and a Beninois passport bearing the name Affo Kaffi Seibu.

Anas Aremeyaw Anas - 2008 Kurt Schork Awards in International Journalism Winner, Local journalist category

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