Rescued from bothels in Ireland, Nigerian girls narrate ordeal in the hands of their traffickers

THE PUNCH Newspaper

On February 4, 2010, T.J. Carroll was convicted of running one of the largest vice rings in the

history of Ireland. From a small house in South Wales, formerly used as a vicarage, Carroll, with help from his wife and daughter, managed a network of 48 brothels throughout Ireland.

However, because they pleaded guilty to various charges, the full details of how Carroll and his associates built and ran the business were not revealed in evidence in court.

A number of sources and those close to the investigation have spoken to The Irish Times about the full extent of Carroll’s prostitution business.

When one of the brothels run by TJ Carroll was raided in December 2007, the detectives involved were taken aback at what they found. Usually, police are stonewalled by women and prostitution organisers in such operations; in this case, officers found two Nigerian women who immediately took up an offer to be taken to a place of safety.

They gave detailed statements about how they were trafficked from Africa by gangs there and sexually exploited in Ireland by the 49-year-old Carlow man’s operation. “It was the sense of fear that existed of being beaten, even killed, that told us what was going on was very, very serious,” says one senior detective.

The evidence the two women supplied, and testimony from 10 others throughout the Republic and North that the Garda’s Organised Crime Unit, the PSNI’s Organised Crime Bureau and the UK’s Serious Organised Crime Agency encountered, was vital in building the case against TJ Carroll.

Along with his second wife, Shamiela Clark (now 32), he was arrested in December 2008 in Wales, and is now in prison in the UK for controlling prostitution and money laundering.

This is thought to have been Ireland’s biggest ever vice empire. One of the women’s statements outlined how a witch doctor was used to control her before she even left Africa with her traffickers, to whom she knew she would be financially indebted for her passage.

“They took me to a witch doctor and I had to swear an oath that I would pay the money or I would die . . . After swearing the oath they cut the heart of a live chicken. They gave me the chest to eat. They made me take off my clothes in a burial ground. Then I had to swear I would not run away and not go to the police.

“The witch doctor then cut my chest, my waist, my legs, my two thumbs and my head. I was very scared because . . . I believed them.”

Another girl was aged just 15 when she was brought to Ireland from Africa. She spoke of her continued fear of the voodoo-based “oath” she had pledged to her traffickers.

“I thought I was coming for school,” she said of her passage from Nigeria to Ireland. “I did not know anyone in Ireland to ask for help. I was very scared. Since I left the agency, I still live in fear. I don’t sleep at night. I’m afraid if I close my eyes I won’t wake up. I’m afraid that I have broken the oath. My family have been threatened because I am slow at paying the (traffickers’) money.”

The account of a third woman suggests a life of misery in Africa, one she hoped to escape by being trafficked to Europe.

“I was eight years old when my father started to abuse me. By the time I was 20, I had three abortions. I overheard my father on the phone one day say it was about time he sacrifice me to the cult. A friend told me she knew of a woman who comes from Europe who could help me.”

The organisation was run by TJ Carroll, a former security firm owner, and his second wife Shamiela Clark, a former prostitute from South Africa. At its height in 2007, the business generated profits of more than €1 million.

Some of the women working for Carroll were experienced prostitutes who had worked in other countries and came to Ireland, mostly from South America and eastern Europe, for what they believed would be significant earnings.

Other younger and more vulnerable women were trafficked from Africa to Ireland via other major European cities.

At this stage, the women were told they would have to work in prostitution as a means of paying off their debts to their African traffickers; €60,000 was demanded by the traffickers in some cases. Most of the women spoke little English, had no money, no idea where they were, and had no place to go to. They were placed in brothels where they lived and saw clients. Foreign women were chosen because they had no support networks in Ireland. Their services were advertised by TJ Carroll and Clark on escort websites.

When customers in Ireland rang one of up to 80 mobile numbers on the websites, they would be connected to a call centre and directed by phone to the nearest brothel. The call centre was run from an old vicarage in the tiny hamlet of Castlemartin in Pembrokeshire, Wales, where Carroll and Clark lived after leaving the Republic in late 2006 to avoid increasing Garda attention.

According to security sources in the Republic and the UK, the women faced a brutal regime in Ireland. They worked 15-hour shifts from 10am to 1am, during which time they were not allowed to turn away any clients.

The men paid €160 for a half hour, €260 for an hour, and “extras” could be negotiated. Brothels were mostly located in apartments rented for short periods under false names by Carroll’s people, using bogus stories and fake references.

Some of the youngest and most vulnerable Nigerians were forced to give all of their earnings to Carroll’s associates in Ireland. “They survived on tips from punters or on whatever ‘extras’ they could perform without Carroll’s people knowing,” says one security source.

Making money from “extras” was made difficult by Shamiela Clark’s micro management. Women would be informed by text when a customer was on the way. They would be told to text Clark when they arrived and immediately when they left. If the women ever left the brothels to go to nearby shops they were often accompanied by a minder, or engaged in near constant telephone contact with Clark from Wales.

“They were never held against their will in the sense of being locked in rooms, but they had no freedom at all,” is how one source described it.

Security sources on both sides of the Border say Carroll’s associates would beat women for anything short of full compliance with “brothel rules”.

According to one source: “It was a regime of oppression designed to keep women under total control so Carroll could make as much money off them as possible.”


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