In a controversial new article from London based newspaper The Daily Mail, Journalist Richard Hoskings investigates how London became the global capital of sex trafficking, child abuse rings, and even worse
It seems that Hoskings is not alone in his final assessment. The United Nations is also painting a horrid picture of the child abuse situation in London. The Daily Mail report continues:
BANGKOK. The little girl winks, then runs her tongue around her upper lip. ‘Do you want a good time, Mister?’ she says.
‘Come and have some fun with me. I’ve got a room nearby,’ she adds, describing the sex acts on offer in perfect English.
‘Where are you from?’ I say.
‘London. Well, Nigeria.’
‘How old are you?’ I ask.
‘Do you like them young? I’m cute.’ She winks again.
Horror, revulsion and pity sweep me in equal measure. I make it clear why I’m here. I’m a researcher and she agrees to talk at the nearby cafe. Her name is Grace.
I knew I would encounter sex tourists: it is what I’ve been investigating for my next book. But I hadn’t expected to meet a child from Africa with a London accent on the streets of Thailand. Grace explains she was brought from Nigeria to Britain where she was moved from house to house. Then, after two years, she was flown to Bangkok. She works the streets under the watchful gaze of a pimp because even in the hypocrisy of Thailand she would be too young for the main sex bars.
Here, between Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy, she has a ripe market of sex tourists, many of them British.
The more I ask Grace, the less she tells. She glances over her shoulder. There’s fear in her red-stained eyes. Eyes that have seen too much in so slight a body. For one thing I do discover: Grace is 12 years old.
I am an author and criminologist – you might know me from my work tracking down the killers of ‘Adam’, the African boy found floating in the Thames, the victim of a ritual killing – and I have spent 13 years investigating cases of exploitation just like Grace.
So where does the blame lie? My disturbing conclusion is that the roots nourishing her tragedy lie neither in Nigeria, nor in Thailand, but in Britain. And that, to our shame, we are doing nothing about it.
There is a clue, perhaps, in the alarming extent of the British trade in child pornography and in last month’s revelation that more than 600 abusers and potential abusers have recently been held by the police.
The true scandal, though, is bigger and more dangerous than the authorities acknowledge. Because London has become the hub, the epicentre for a global trafficking enterprise involving thousands of children for exploitation, sexual abuse and even, in some unspeakable cases, ritual voodoo killing, as a new United Nations report makes clear.
The head of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Kristen Sandberg, who wrote the report, said: ‘Hundreds of children have been abducted from their families in Africa and trafficked to the UK, especially London. Many are raped and sexually abused.’
The true figure, however, runs into thousands. In other words, there is a vast reservoir of lost children gathering in our own capital anonymously shuffled from flat to shabby flat – a dark pool feeding child exploitation and misery across the planet.
It begins, of course, with money: Britain’s generous child benefits system has become an international magnet for fraudsters who are responsible for trafficking thousands of children into this country every year to take advantage of payments and these young victims are prey for other vices, too – a ready made market for sexploitation.
Thomas, a contact of mine in London’s Congolese community, explains how the fraud works. A child is brought into the country and stays with relatives or friends who claim the child to be their own. The child is registered for a school because this starts the correspondence needed to claim child benefit which then triggers working tax credits and other payments.
The school might never see the child because, as soon as the letters arrive, the child is moved to another family or friend who claim benefit for the same child. If the school does ask for a birth certificate it is not properly verified and there are tens of thousands of false ones in circulation.
It’s why Child Benefit is known to insiders as ‘the benefit gateway’.
In the unlikely event someone asks to see the child, there’s a pool of alternatives available at short notice. In practice, even immigration officials fail to conduct face-to-face interviews with children. Scared of being called racist, they don’t press for corroboration.
After spending nearly two decades working among African and Asian communities in the UK, I know that child benefit fraud gangs are operating among them. One Nigerian gang I have been told about routinely exploits our generosity by moving children around addresses and making vast multiple claims on their behalf. It is also commonplace among the Congolese community in Britain.
It has been taking place for years. The Metropolitan Police’s Operation Maxim, which was the only dedicated trafficking unit until funding was cut in 2009, reported that in a one-month pilot study 300 children who had entered London went missing. That translates as 3,600 missing children a year trafficked into one city. Missing. And they’re the ones the authorities bothered to register on entry. The UN report suggests the situation is now out of control.
The authorities catch very few of the benefit fraudsters because they haven’t a clue how many children are here, nor where they are.
They did, though, catch Romanian Telus Dumitriu, 36, who masterminded a gang responsible for bringing 181 children into Britain. In 2011, police seized 41 false Home Office letters from his Birmingham home, more than 30 false birth certificates and references.
Children were moved around locations and £800,000 in multiple benefits claimed. Some of this British taxpayers’ money was used to transform Dumitriu’s home village of Tandarei in Romania.
In October 2013, another Eastern European gang was busted after defrauding the taxpayer of more than £1million.
In the case of Iveta and Magdalena Ferkova, they set up 124 bank accounts to collect child benefit and working child tax credits for 77 false claims. At times the fraudsters were withdrawing up to £33,000 a week to fund their lavish lifestyle which included a top-of-the-range BMW and gold jewelry.
Yet it took three years for someone in authority to have suspicions about why so many claims were coming from just three addresses.
Child trafficking into Britain for benefit fraud is a growing problem, as a 2012 report by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) acknowledged. But the centre, established by the Home Office, seems clueless about how to stem the tide, which goes a significant way to explaining our £3billion annual benefits fraud bill.
This, though, is just the beginning of the abuse. Many of these children, like Grace, are moved on from Britain for sexual exploitation. But sex abuse also takes place within our borders.
It is possible to buy sex within a few hundred yards of anywhere in Britain using adverts on the ‘ordinary’ internet. The ‘Dark Net’ is a different order of threat. A recent BBC investigation suggested ‘tens of thousands of paedophiles’ are using special encrypted software to trade and produce obscene images. It is all too plausible, and the connection with the international trade in child sex is direct.
I worked on the case of Gordon Andrews, 59, a prolific contributor to, and user of, the Dark Net. In September 2012, Andrews was sentenced to 12 years for each of three counts of statutory rape after pleading guilty to abusing an African girl from the age of 11-13. The girl had been brought into this country and Andrews struck up a friendship with the family.
I was present as the victim was interviewed, with a live feed in the adjoining room. At this point she still wasn’t even 14 and was clearly terrified. On his arrest, Andrews was found to be in possession of hundreds of child abuse images, as well as bestiality images, which he had seeded into the Dark Net.
Of course, it is dangerous for paedophiles to act in Britain, so that’s where sex tourism comes in.
The more I tried to talk to Grace in that Bangkok cafe, the more it became clear she was held by another fear. She spoke of being ‘under a spell’, and of a ‘ceremony’ held in London. She is not alone.
In July 2011, Anthony Harrison, then 32, was found guilty of trafficking two young African girls into London for sexual exploitation. Here, too, ritual played its part. Aged just 14 and 16, Harrison intended that they be used as prostitutes in Greece and Spain but he knew the easy route was through London. Harrison employed a local babalawo, or witch doctor, who stripped and cut them with a razorblade so that their blood could be collected. Hair was also shaved off, and they were made to lie naked in a closed coffin. One of them was forced to eat raw chicken heart.
It took us three years to convince them they wouldn’t die if they testified. Harrison was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Two years ago, another Nigerian, Osezua Osolase, 42, from Gravesend in Kent, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for a string of offences involving the trafficking of young African girls like Grace through Britain for sexual exploitation by sex tourists in Europe and Asia. Again, London was the hub of the movement. And again, Osolase used juju or witchcraft to bind the girls to silence.
However vile, sex is not the darkest end for some of these children. Some are brought here to be ritually killed.
When the torso of Adam, as we called him, was found near Tower Bridge in 2001, I knew we faced a different kind of crime in Britain. Child ritual murder. It soon became apparent to me that Adam had been held upside down and his throat cut in a ritual sacrifice.
My part in that investigation is told in my book The Boy In The River. I now think Adam was trafficked into Britain in order to empower a child trafficking ring.
Kingsley Ojo, now 45, was convicted of masterminding that gang but he obtained early release from prison to go undercover for the police. Instead, he escaped back to Nigeria where he has probably resumed his trafficking business.
In 2000, eight-year-old Victoria Climbie died after a horrendous spell of torture by her guardians. During the investigation it emerged that Victoria, brought to London from the Ivory Coast, was accused by her African guardians of being a witch. Police at the time thought little of it, and focused on the crime.
The UK-based AFRUCA charity (Africans Unite Against Child Abuse) is campaigning to change the law to make accusing a child of witchcraft an offence. But the Government’s 2012 National Action Plan ‘to tackle child abuse linked to faith or belief’ wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on, and was slipped out one quiet August day. Not a penny has been put into the real action required to tackle the growing problem of child abuse related to trafficking.
Child protection cannot be left to market forces, but must be driven by a national agenda and this is the message from the United Nations. The child benefit rules that encourage the traffickers must be overhauled, with proper interviews and checks. And then there are Britain’s lax border controls, which are especially weak where children are concerned. A trafficker can bring any child into Britain and once here, they vanish from the system. The authorities are entitled to ask for blood checks, yet rarely do.
Countries all over the world insist on finger printing or iris scanning. We should do the same. Our sensitivity in such matters is misplaced.
I believe, too, we need identity cards, whatever the opposition from the liberal middle classes.
As the UN says, Britain cannot leave child protection to ‘fair play’ any longer. We need to tighten things up or more children, like Grace, will find themselves trafficked to become victims of a life not worth living.
What do you think of the child abuse rampage happening in London? Sound off in the comments below!
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