Traf­fick­ing gang ‘sold women as com­mod­ity’

● Five-year probe found vic­tims taken from Slo­vakia to Glas­gow

The Scotsman - - FRONT PAGE - By GRANT MCCABE

Four mem­bers of a hu­man traf­fick­ing gang have been con­victed of bring­ing women from east­ern Europe to Scotland to be ex­ploited.

One vic­tim was sold for £10,000 out­side Pri­mark in Glas­gow’s Argyle Street. Vo­jtech Gom­bar, 61, Anil Raj Wa­gle, 37, Jana San­dorova, 28, and Ratislav Adam, 31, de­nied traf­fick­ing women from Slo­vakia to Glas­gow but were found guilty fol­low­ing a trial at the High Court in the

city. Po­lice caught the gang through a five-year in­ter­na­tional op­er­a­tion co­de­named Sy­nap­sis and said some of the vic­tims, who were kept in flats in the city’s Go­van­hill, were sex­u­ally ex­ploited and sold into sham marriages.

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

The crimes only came to light after one brave woman man­aged to es­cape and run to a shop in the south­side of Glas­gow for help.

She spoke only Roma and Slo­vakian but the shop­keeper, who did not un­der­stand her, tele­phoned po­lice. The of­fi­cers asked two young girls in the store to help with trans­la­tion. They man­aged to work out that Gom­bar, the rin­gleader, had her ID card. It was found in his flat in the city’s Al­li­son Street, spark­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

De­tec­tive In­spec­tor Steven Mcmil­lan, who led the in­quiry, said: “It’s a heinous crime. It’s hor­rific to think that peo­ple think it is ac­cept­able to buy and sell other hu­man be­ings as a com­mod­ity, to have no thought for the im­pact and trauma it is go­ing to have on them.”

All four played apart in a scheme to transport eight young women from Slo­vakia to flats in Go­van­hill be­tween Novem­ber 2011 and Fe­bru­ary 2017 to ex­ploit them.

Five of the women were brought over for ar­ranged marriages to Pak­istani men. Some of the women were forced into pros­ti­tu­tion. One was turned back at Calais by UK Bor­der Force of­fi­cers.

She had no pos­ses­sions or money and was ac­com­pa­nied by Gom­bar, who had two suit­cases con­tain­ing his pos­ses­sions. He aban­doned her at the ferry port.

Jurors yes­ter­day re­turned ver­dicts after more than five days of de­lib­er­a­tions.

Gom­bar 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, mainly in­volv­ing one of the vic­tims. San­dorova was guilty of six charges fea­tur­ing two women. Adam was con­victed of seven charges in­volv­ing three vic­tims.

The court heard how the ma­jor­ity of the women gave ev­i­dence by vide­olink from Slo­vakia and through an in­ter­preter. All had come to Scotland with the prom­ise of a bet­ter life and a job 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.

Their ID cards, which could have helped them to flee back home, were snatched.

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

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.”

Ms Harper said of the woman forced to have sex with two or three men a day for months: “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.”

San­dorova and Adam were Gom­bar’s step­daugh­ter and her part­ner.

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

Lord Beck­ett re­manded the gang – all from Go­van­hill – in cus­tody pending sen­tenc­ing for re­ports. They will re­turn to the dock in Ed­in­burgh on 8 Novem­ber.

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

“Her body be­came noth­ing but a ve­hi­cle for Gom­bar and oth­ers to make money. It is hard to imag­ine a more un­car­ing way to treat an­other hu­man be­ing”

KATH HARPER

Prose­cu­tor

0 Clock­wise from top left: Anil Raj Wa­gle, Jana San­dorova, Vo­jtech Gom­bar and Ratislav Adam

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