THREE human traffickers have been jailed for three years each for trying to force a teenage Slovak woman into a sham marriage.
• Woman and boyfriend trafficked into Scotland
• Pair had travel documents removed from them by accused
Renata Kulova, 20, her mother Helena Kulova, 47, and Ivan Balog, 27, lured Anna Tothova, 19, and her boyfriend Zanetta Lakatosova, 24, to Scotland with promises of a better life.
The young couple had wanted to earn money to send home to help their families.
However, the gang stole their personal documents and tried to exploit Miss Tothova by making her the bride in a sham marriage to a foreign man, in order to secure his right to stay in the UK.
In desperation, she contacted her family in Slovakia, who contacted the authorities, triggering an international operation involving Interpol and the Scottish Crime and Drugs Enforcement Agency (SCDEA), and led by Tayside Police, after the gang brought Miss Tothova to Perth.
Police said they had been treated like “modern-day slaves”.
Detective Inspector Mike Pirie, of Tayside Police, said: “She managed to get hold of a mobile phone and called her mum in Bratislava.
“She alerted her mum to the fact she was being kept in a flat and believed she was being sold to a foreign male.”
Last month, the trio were convicted of human trafficking and theft. Yesterday, Sheriff Elizabeth Munro, at Dundee Sheriff Court, sentenced them to three years each.
Prosecutors took evidence from the victims’ families via videolink to Slovakia.
Andrew McIntyre, prosecuting, said: “This conviction has shown that human trafficking takes many guises and does not always involve violence or physical force.
“The Kulovas and Ivan Balog exploited their victim by keeping her identification documents and deceiving her, thereby exerting control over her for their own ends.”
He added: “I hope, therefore, that this case makes clear the determination of Scottish prosecutors to tackle all forms of human trafficking.”
The sentence was welcomed by police.
Chief Superintendent Gavin Robertson, of Tayside Police, said: “We are all determined to shine a light on the malevolent and wholly abhorrent crime of human trafficking. The law enforcement agencies will strive to set the innocent victims of such crimes free and hold their captors to account and importantly drag this dreadful enterprise into the open.”
Stephen Whitelock, deputy director general of the SCDEA, added: “Trafficking in human beings is a priority for Scottish policing both now and indeed the future.
“This is reflected in the creation of a dedicated human trafficking team which will form part of the new specialist crime division of the new Police Service of Scotland.”
In October, six people were arrested in Dumfries and Galloway for immigration offences after attempting to get married in Scotland.
At Gretna, two Pakistani men, a 21-year-old who was due to be married to a Lithuanian woman and another aged 33, who was acting as a witness to the marriage were both arrested. Also at Gretna, a 22-year-old Pakistani man was arrested as he planned to marry a Polish woman.
In Moffat, a 32-year-old Nigerian woman was arrested as she attempted to marry a Lithuanian man. A 23-year-old Indian man who was acting as a witness was also arrested.
In Langholm, a 23-year-old Pakistani man was arrested as he attempted to marry a Polish woman.
All six were due to be removed from the country.
The Kulovas and Balog are not the first group to be convicted of human trafficking.
In October 2011, Stephen Craig, 34, and Sarah Beukan, 22, were jailed for human trafficking at Glasgow Sheriff Court.