Slovakian pair cleared of people trafficking charge
A man and woman were yesterday acquitted of people trafficking after it emerged the complainant no longer wishes to co-operate with the prosecution.
Tibor Kozlik and Bozena Stojkova - who are both 49 and originally from Slovakia - were each charged with arranging or facilitating the arrival into the UK of a woman, intending to exploit her or believe that another was likely to exploit her, on September 10, 2009.
The charge was brought under the Asylum and Immigration Act 2004, and the pair were due to stand trial at Belfast Crown Court after denying the offence. Bozena Stojkova, from Clanchattan Street in Belfast, faced two other charges, including stealing cash and child tax credits from the same woman between November and December 2009. A third Slovakian national, 32-year-old Svetlana Fatonova from Fort Street in Belfast, also faced the theft charge.
In addition to the people trafficking charge, Kozlik, from Seaview Street in Belfast, was charged with, and denied, seven further offences.
These included sexually assaulting the same woman in May 2014, blackmailing her out of £2,400 between December 2009 and January 2011, and falsely claiming he was her partner, and claiming Housing Benefit he was not entitled to at a property in Belfast in November 2009.
The trial against all three was due to start yesterday, and a jury was sworn in.
After all the charges levelled at all three accused were read by the clerk of the court, Crown barrister Robin Steer addressed the 12 members of the jury and revealed the prosecution would be offering no evidence.
Saying "an issue has arisen with the injured party", who is now in England, Mr Steer said her account has now changed and she "no longer wishes to co-operate".
In light of this, Mr Steer said "a decision was made not to proceed with the case".
The jury was then directed to find Mr Tibor, Ms Stojkova and Ms Fatonova "not guilty" of all the charges.
Judge David McFarland then asked Mr Steer if the Home Office was seeking to deport the trio, and when he was told this was not the case, the judge told all three - via a translator - "You have been found not guilty by this court. You are free to go."