Human trafficking group convicted of selling Slovakian women in Glasgow

Four people were convicted of trafficking women from Slovakia and forcing them into slavery over a period of six years in at the High Court in Glasgow.

The gang. Picture: Police Scotland
The gang. Picture: Police Scotland

After more than five days of deliberations, jurors returned the verdicts that three men and one woman were found guilty of involvement in forcing women into prostitution and slavery and organising sham marriages over a six-year period.

Vojtech Gombar, 61, Anil Wagle, 37, Jana Sandorova, 28,and Ratislav Adam, 31 had previously denied the charges.

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All four played a part in a scheme to transport eight young women from poverty-stricken Slovakia to flats in the city's Govanhill between November 2011 and February 2017 in order to exploit them.

Jurors heard how one victim was sold for £10,000 outside Primark in the city's Argyle Street.

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Five of the women were brought over for arranged marriages to Pakistani men. Some of the women – though not all – were forced into prostitution.

Gombar, who was recognised as the ringleader of the gang, was found guilty of 13 charges involving eight of the women.

An accusation involving a ninth woman was found not proven.

Wagle was convicted of four charges, whilst Sandorova was found guilty of six charges featuring two women.

Adam was convicted of seven charges involving three victims.

After a seven week trial, Lord Beckett remanded the gang - all from Govanhill - in custody pending sentencing for reports, after which they will return to the dock in Edinburgh on November 8.

One woman - who had been with the gang during the case - sobbed loudly after the verdicts.

In search of a better life

The majority of the women, who had come to Scotland with the promise of a better life and a job, gave evidence by video link from Slovakia and through an interpreter.

But, they were either forced to take part in marriages against their will or made to work as prostitutes.

Jurors heard the harrowing stories of the vulnerable victims who arrived here penniless, with no possessions and only the clothes they were wearing, and their ID cards were taken off them, preventing them from fleeing.

The women - who did not speak any English - were watched and never allowed out on their own.

The horrific crimes only came to light after one brave woman, who spoke only Roma and Slovakian, managed to escape and run to a shop in the southside of the city for help.

The shopkeeper phoned the police, and upon arrival, the officers asked two young girls in the store to help with translation.

They then managed to work out that Gombar had her ID card, which was found in his flat on Allison Street, leading to a major investigation.

It was Gombar - along with accomplices in Slovakia - who found the women and brought them to the UK.

Prosecutor Kath Harper said: “Vojtech Gombar shows a startlingly clear, compelling and powerful pattern of behaviour in recruiting, transporting and exploiting these women.

"He exploited them by either forcing them into marriage with virtual strangers from which he benefited financially and/ or forcing them into prostitution from which he and his associates benefited.”

The court heard that one of the women was forced to have sex with two or three men Pakistani men in a day for at least eight months.

Ms Harper said: “Her autonomy was completely stripped from her and her body became nothing but a vehicle for Gombar and others to make money.

"It is perhaps hard to imagine a more callous and uncaring way to treat another human being.”

Family business

Sandorova and Adam were Gombar's step-daughter and her partner.

Wazle, from Nepal, became involved initially because he wanted to buy a bride.

The woman he 'bought' claimed that he raped her although he was not charged with that offence.

There was evidence from phone messages that he was trying to make money selling women to other men.

One woman told of how Sandorova gave her a short skirt and 'sexy' clothing so that she would look more provocative and make money from prostitution.

Another victim overheard a conversation between Adam and Gombar.

She told the court: “I believe he was involved in a similar thing to what Vojtech Gombar was doing, like taking girls and so on.

“At the time he had no girls, however I heard him say he be doing the same thing as Gombar, according to what I heard he was planning to get girls for sale.”

Ms Harper said: “Ratislav Adam was acting along with Gombar in controlling one woman and keeping her in servitude, if not slavery.

He sold a woman in the city centre of Glasgow along with Jana Sandorova to Anil Wagle.

“After varying amounts of time the women did get away, but it was rarely anything to do with the accused.”

The charges the four was guilty of included intent to exploit women, holding some in slavery or servitude as well as causing victims to work as prostitutes.

Lord Beckett heaped praise on the Slovakian authorities in helping get justice in Scotland.

He said: "Without the invaluable, international co-operation this trial could not have taken place.

"Their efforts has allowed justice to be done in relation to very serious and damaging criminal conduct."