Jail for group who trafficked woman
A woman was thrust into a "sordid world" of international people trafficking when she was brought to the UK and later sold to a man who forced her into a sham marriage and repeatedly raped her, a judge said today.
The "unsophisticated" 20-year-old was kidnapped from her rural home in Slovakia and put on a coach where she believed she was heading for the Czech Republic to find work.
Instead, she was taken to London and then on to Bradford, West Yorkshire, where she was kept prisoner for weeks by fellow Slovakian Imrich Bodor, 45, before he passed her on to Pakistani asylum seeker Abdul Sabool Shinwary.
Shinwary, 38, also from Bradford, was a known fixer of sham marriages between Asians and Eastern Europeans, Preston Crown Court heard.
He sold her like "cattle" as a prospective bride to Azam Khan, 34, who took her to live above his uncle and aunt's shop in Burnley, Lancashire.
The Pakistani national went on to "wed" her just weeks before he was due to be removed from Britain as an illegal overstayer.
The victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was again kept against her will as she was raped and beaten by Khan.
Her ordeal only came to end when an anonymous call to the police last October led to her discovery at the address in Brougham Street.
The victim returned home in January but returned to the UK to give evidence at the trial where Khan, Shinwary and Bodor were convicted of their crimes yesterday.
Today, Bodor, of Clipstone Street, was jailed for nine years after he was found guilty of trafficking and false imprisonment.
Shinwary, of Washington Street, was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment for the same offences, while Khan was jailed for 12 years for rape, battery, trafficking and false imprisonment.
Khan's aunt, Nusrat Khan, 41, of Colne Road, Burnley, received a nine-month jail term, suspended for two years, after the jury found her guilty of false imprisonment. She was cleared of trafficking, as was her husband, Mashrafat.
Sentencing, Judge Jonathan Gibson said: "Over the past two months or so and during the course of this trial the jury and I through the evidence have observed at close quarters a sordid world of international people trafficking.
"And in particular we have observed the trauma, pain and distressed suffered by one of its victims."
He said the woman was "unsophisticated and had no real knowledge of the wider world" and was "plainly vulnerable to manipulation".
The judge added: "There is no doubt that even though there is one victim in this case, this is a serious case of exploitation involving elements of modern slavery in an organised manner."
Opening the case, prosecutor Joe Boyd said what linked all the people involved was a "series of events which sounds more like something from a 19th century novel by Dickens than anything happening in Europe in the 21st century".
Following the verdicts, the victim issued a statement through Lancashire Police in which she said: "I am very happy that these bad people are going to prison. This is what I always wanted after what they did to me. Thank you to the person who rang the police.
"I was so scared for my life. Many times I wanted to run away from them but because of what the bad people told me, I didn't know where to run, where to go, or who I could trust.
"All I wanted to do was go home to my family in Slovakia. If the police hadn't come to get me, I don't think I would be here today.
"Thank you to the police and all the other good people who looked after me and got me back to my family.
"Thank you for believing me."
Kristina Makunova, 37, of Girlington Road, Bradford, was jailed for 51 weeks yesterday after she admitted false imprisonment and trafficking at the start of the trial. She went on to give evidence for the prosecution.
Bodor's girlfriend, Petra Dzudzova, 25, also of Clipstone Street, will be sentenced tomorrow for trafficking.
Judge Gibson said the victim, who could not speak English, was kidnapped last August by two men in Slovakia who were known to Bodor.
Identity documents were obtained for her in her home country but were kept from her so she could not leave or seek outside help, the court heard.
Once in Britain, she was put in fear of going to the police and told they would not be sympathetic to her and would treat her badly.
The court was told Bodor had previous convictions in Slovakia for indecency with a child, disorderly behaviour, theft and false imprisonment.
His barrister asked the judge to bear in mind the length of his sentence in a "foreign prison" where he does not speak the language.
Judge Gibson said Shinwary was the "prime mover" in the trafficking and was a man who had made "substantial amounts of money" from fixing sham marriages.
He initially sold the victim to a man called Ali but "he was not satisfied so returned her".
It is understood that police have been unable to trace Mr Ali.
She was then sold to Khan.
"You treated her as a commodity," Judge Gibson told Shinwary. "You say you bought and sold cars. I don't know whether or not that was true but certainly you appeared to have sold her than she was no more than cattle."
His facilitating of sham marriages "undermined the very immigration system that had previously helped you", he added.
Turning to Khan, he said: "The evidence and verdicts of the jury point to the conclusion that your purchased a woman who you believed to have been trafficked. She was kept against her will, you used a degree of violence against her and you told her that the police would intervene if she ran away from you.
"You had no regard for her protestations that she did not wish to have sexual intercourse with you."
Both Khan and Shinwary will be deported to Pakistan at the end of their sentences.
The judge told mother-of-10 Nusrat Khan that she was in an "entirely different position" to her co-defendants.
He noted she had always treated the victim well and provided refuge on occasion when she was upset by her nephew.
He took into account her mitigation that she was the main carer for one of her children who has Down's Syndrome.
Following sentencing, Emma Kehoe, Crown Advocate for CPS North West, said: "This case involved the trafficking of a vulnerable young woman from Slovakia into the United Kingdom. She was brought into this country before being sold to Azam Khan in Burnley, who bought her in an attempt to secure his immigration status.
"She has been falsely imprisoned, beaten and raped. She had no money or identity documents and she was unable to speak English or ask anyone for help. She was threatened and told she was not allowed to leave.
"Throughout the investigation and the trial, the welfare of the victim in this case has been paramount. We have gone to great lengths to ensure that she has been given the best possible support, including enlisting the services of a specialist translator.
"We have been able to secure successful convictions against these defendants and they have now been given custodial sentences for the terrible ordeal that they have subjected their victim to. I would like to commend the victim for her bravery and I hope today's outcome allows her to move on with her life.
"All cases of human trafficking are extremely serious, complex and require sensitive handling. The CPS will continue to work with the police and other agencies to tackle this form of modern day slavery and bring those who are responsible for it before the courts."
Detective Inspector Neil Howarth said: "I am pleased with the sentences handed down by Judge Gibson today. This is a case of modern day slavery. The victim in this case has been trafficked into and within the UK, sold, subjected to assaults, rape and further sold for marriage.
"During police interviews it became apparent that she had been brought to the UK against her will on a coach in August 2012. She had been prostituted against her will, physically assaulted, prevented from leaving the company of persons associated to her, had her travel documents taken from her, sold into marriage and raped.
"Someone within the community raised the alarm to alert the police to this woman's ordeal and I would like to thank them for that. However, others within the community at Bradford and Burnley have turned a blind eye.
"Throughout her ordeal all she wanted to do was go home. The victim had no intention of benefitting from the opportunities presented in the UK and returned home as soon as possible.
"She is an extremely vulnerable young woman, and I am proud at the bravery she has shown in attending court and giving evidence to obtain justice."