Belfast Telegraph

Woman gives evidence against four accused of human trafficking

Three men and a woman also face allegations of forcing women into prostitution.

The trial is taking place at the High Court in Glasgow (Jane Barlow/PA)
The trial is taking place at the High Court in Glasgow (Jane Barlow/PA)

By Laura Paterson, PA Scotland

A woman has told a court she was “forced” to marry a man and those who arranged it said it was “good business”.

The 28-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was giving evidence at the trial of three men and a woman accused of human trafficking and forcing women into prostitution.

Vojtech Gombar, 61, Anil Raj Wagle, 37, Jana Sandorova, 28, and Ratislav Adam, 31, face a series of charges, which they deny, including that Gombar contravened the Asylum and Immigration Act by allegedly being involved in transporting the witness and her sister to and from the UK for the purposes of exploitation.

Appearing via videolink from Slovakia, the witness told the High Court in Glasgow that she was living in her hometown in Slovakia in 2011 with her mother and siblings when a woman named Helena Cicova visited the house.

(Ms Cicova) told us we must get married and I was afraid at that time, especially afraid for my sister Witness

The witness said she and her sister were alone in the house and were offered a well paid job in England working with potatoes.

She told the court she initially refused to go but her sister agreed and she then changed her mind as she was “worried” about her sibling, who was 18 at the time.

The witness said they gave their ID cards to Ms Cicova and left immediately without taking any clothes or speaking to their mother as there was “not enough time”.

She told the court she only knew she was flying to Glasgow when she read her ticket at the airport, which Ms Cicova bought, and believed the location was “in London”.

I was forced (to get married). What else can I do without the money, without support ... Witness

On arrival in Glasgow, she said she and her sister returned their ID cards to Ms Cicova as “we don’t know where we are, we don’t have any money and we were a bit worried”.

She said they were concerned about “what we will do, what will happen to us”.

The witness said they were taken to Ms Cicova’s flat in Glasgow, where 10 people lived, but only worked for two days at a pizzeria and gave the 20 euro they earned to her to pay for food.

Ms Cicova later told them there was no job in Glasgow and offered to marry them off but did not say to who, the witness said.

She said she asked why she should get married to someone she did not know and did not love.

“She told us we must get married and I was afraid at that time, especially afraid for my sister. She can throw us away or something else can happen to us,” the witness added, saying she was also worried that if she was thrown out she would be detained by the authorities.

She said she agreed because she had “no other choice” and went with Ms Cicova and her sister to Gombar’s nearby home where two Pakistani men were waiting.

She said she was informed one of the men wanted to find a bride for his son and wanted to choose “the older one”, which was her.

Overnight, she said she heard Gombar tell Ms Cicova that the woman had “made good business” and said in her police statement that Gombar said he would receive 4,000 euro (£3,631) for the wedding but would not give her the money and would split it with Ms Cicova.

The witness said the next day she flew to Dublin with Ms Cicova on flights paid for by the Pakistani men, and on arrival £1,000 was placed on a table for Ms Cicova, before she left early the following morning.

The court heard the witness lived with her future husband and his relatives at a house in Co Meath and could only communicate through hand signals.

The pair were married in 2012 and when asked by an interpreter if she was forced into the marriage, the witness said she had told the official no but said to the court that this was a lie.

Asked why she went through with the marriage, she said: “I was forced. What else can I do without the money, without support, I don’t have anyone there.”

After the wedding, her husband gave her £1,000 and she returned to Slovakia but flew back the same day to divorce him.

Ronnie Renucci QC, representing Gombar, put to the witness that she never met Gombar in Glasgow, which she denied.

He put to her that Ms Cicova suggested getting married to earn money and the witness replied she did not get any money from her.

The witness said a police statement saying her future husband gave her 1,000 euros on arrival in Ireland was incorrect, and it was placed in front of Ms Cicova.

The police statement also said her husband had told her he needed a visa to stay in Ireland.

He gave her 500 euros the day before and after the wedding, the witness said.

Questioned if she agreed to marry him for a visa in exchange for money, she said: “I didn’t ask him for money and I didn’t know why the marriage was taking place.”

The accused are said to have worked from at least three properties in Glasgow, as well as premises around the UK, France, Slovakia and Ireland.

More than 13 women are said to have been trafficked, mostly from Slovakia, to be exploited in the UK or elsewhere.

Gombar faces 24 charges, Wagle faces six, Sandorova faces 11, and Adam faces 16, all of which they deny.

The trial, before Judge Lord Beckett, continues.

PA

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