October 25, 2007 / 2:39 PM / 12 years ago

Accused human trafficker fights extradition

LONDON (Reuters) - A man accused of being one of the leaders of a gang that used fear of voodoo to lure young girls into sex trades is to fight extradition from Britain, a court heard on Thursday.

Gilbert Ektor, 31, is accused of being one of the international gang’s masterminds, although authorities admitted his true identity remained a mystery.

Ektor, an illegal immigrant who used several aliases, was arrested during a dawn raid in Coventry, on an European arrest warrant, City of London Magistrates Court was told.

It was part of an international police operation that led to another 19 people being arrested in Britain, the United States, Belgium, Spain, Holland, Ireland and Nigeria.

Dutch officials said the smuggling ring used fear of voodoo to force dozens of young Nigerian children and women to work as prostitutes in European countries including the Netherlands, France, Italy and Spain.

They said the under-age girls were forced to promise a voodoo priest in Nigeria that they would pay off debt.

The raids, which also uncovered scores of illegal immigrants, were the culmination of an 18-month investigation by Dutch authorities.

The court heard that Ektor, from Rotherham, was charged with human trafficking, people smuggling, falsifying travel documents, abduction of a minor and being part of a criminal organisation.

Ektor, who sat passively in the dock wearing a black shirt, said he would fight extradition to Holland.

Earlier, prosecutor Rachel Barnes told the court police had seen Ektor meeting another ringleader who had flown into Leeds.

“It is alleged that this defendant is part, a main part, of a large criminal conspiracy, which included the abduction of women and children,” she said.

Ektor was remanded in custody to re-appear next month.

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