Trafficking gang ‘sold women as commodity’
● Five-year probe found victims taken from Slovakia to Glasgow
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”
0 Clockwise from top left: Anil Raj Wagle, Jana Sandorova, Vojtech Gombar and Ratislav Adam