Four people have been jailed for their part in trafficking Slovakian women to Scotland and forcing them into sham marriages, slavery or prostitution.
Vojtech Gombar, 61, Anil Wagle, 37, Jana Sandorova, 28, and Ratislav Adam, 31, were last month found guilty of charges involving eight women after a trial at the High Court in Glasgow.
One of the women was sold for £10,000 outside a Primark store in Argyle Street, Glasgow, in front of unsuspecting shoppers.
Others were forced into prostitution and were held in slavery in flats in the city’s Govanhill.
The four were jailed at the High Court in Edinburgh on Friday:
Judge Lord Beckett said in his sentencing statement: “Such crimes are utterly repugnant.
“They involve the degradation of other humans, treating them as if they were objects or animals to be transported and sold for exploitation.”
Detective superintendent Fil Capaldi, head of Police Scotland’s human trafficking unit, said the women who came forward had been “vindicated”.
He said: “Today’s sentence is a vindication for those women who were victims of this criminal gang and of their bravery in telling us about their horrific experiences.
“It also serves as a warning to traffickers operating in Scotland: make no mistake, you are not welcome here.
“We will work with our partners nationally and internationally, and within our own local communities, to identify victims and to pursue the gangs who exploit and enslave people for financial gain, and bring them to justice.”
Five of the women were brought over for arranged marriages to Pakistani men. Some of the women – though not all – 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 ringleader Gombar, who had two suitcases containing his possessions. He abandoned her at the ferry port.
All the women had come to Scotland with the promise of a better life and a job, but jurors heard the harrowing stories of 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 any English – were watched and never allowed out on their own.
The horrific crimes only came to light after one brave woman managed to escape and run to a shop in the southside of the city for help.
She spoke only Roma and Slovakian – but, the shopkeeper – who did not understand her – phoned police.
The officers asked two young girls in the store to help with translation and managed to work out that Gombar had her ID card.
The document was found in Gombar’s flat in the city’s Allison Street, sparking a major investigation.
It was Gombar – along with accomplices in Slovakia – who found the women and brought them to the UK.
The court heard that one of the women was forced to have sex with two or three men Pakistani men in a day for at least eight months.
Sandorova and Adam were Gombar’s step-daughter and her partner. Wagle, from Nepal, became involved initially because he wanted to buy a bride.
The woman he ‘bought’ claimed he raped her although he was not charged with that offence.
There was evidence from phone messages that he was trying to make money selling women to other men.
One woman told how Sandorova gave her a short skirt and ‘sexy’ clothing so she would look more provocative and make money from prostitution.
Another victim overheard a conversation between Adam and Gombar.
She told the court: “I believe he was involved in a similar thing to what Vojtech Gombar was doing, like taking girls and so on.
“At the time he had no girls, however I heard him say he be doing the same thing as Gombar, according to what I heard he was planning to get girls for sale.”
Catriona Bryden, procurator fiscal for sexual offences, said: “Vojtech Gombar and his associates exploited vulnerable women and treated them like chattels, forcing them into prostitution or marriage with virtual strangers for their own financial benefit without regard to the suffering they caused.
“I hope that these convictions and the sentence send a strong message to those who would seek to benefit from the trafficking and exploitation of other human beings.”