A young woman who was trafficked into the UK from Hungary believing she was going to be given work was being sold for a sham marriage in Chorley, a court has heard.
The 22-year-old victim responded to an advertisement on a Hungarian website for a babysitter in London in 2013 and was offered the post in a telephone interview.
However, on arrival in Budapest to travel to London she was met from the train by three men, told that she could not use her mobile phone and was driven to Slovakia.
In a three-week ordeal which saw the woman brought to the UK by coach and taken from London to Manchester and on to Chorley, her traffickers used verbal threats and intimidation to ensure she remained compliant, Preston Crown Court heard. Once here, she was ‘bought’ by a Pakistani man for £3,500 and told they were to marry.
Two men have now been jailed for their part in what Judge Anthony Russell QC called a “serious deception” – but the man intended to be the bridegroom remains at large.
Slovakian Bartolomej Sivak, 58, and Rana Yousaf, a 27-year-old Pakistani national, were jailed for four years and two months and 20 months respectively. Sivak organised the criminal operation, with Yousaf acting as a go-between for the groom and Sivak.
This was a very serious offence. It involved a very serious degree of deception of this woman, bringing her to this country in the belief she was to be employed, whereas the purpose was for her to be used in a sham marriage
He also assisted in moving the victim between different addresses and keeping her there.
Preston Crown Court heard the woman was trafficked through Slovakia before being flown to London and held at houses in Longsight and Levenshulme, Manchester, before finally being brought to Chorley by train.
When she finally arrived at the family home of the intended bridegroom in Chorley, £3,500 was handed over in cash.
Throughout her journey from Hungary to Chorley the woman was under constant supervision and was not allowed to go out of the house unaccompanied.
The judge said: “This was a very serious offence. It involved a very serious degree of deception of this woman, bringing her to this country in the belief she was to be employed, whereas the purpose was for her to be used in a sham marriage.
“Although it is right that no physical violence was used against her nor was she restrained the situation was such that she was placed in considerable fear which is why she felt unable to resist. It must have been a very frightening experience for her.”
During her journey out of Hungary the woman was not allowed to use her mobile phone and once in England felt unable to report her situation.
On one occasion the police called at a house in Levenshulme over an unrelated matter but the woman did not have the language skills to raise the alarm.
However, once she arrived in Chorley she was left alone in the house while her bridegroom went to work.
She rang her mother who told her to report her situation to the police and gave her a number.
The same day, her mother filed a missing persons report with the authorities in Hungary.
Sivak was arrested the following day at a house in Manchester. He initially denied being involved in people trafficking or selling the woman into marriage.
Sivak, of Abbey Hey Lane, Gorton, pleaded guilty to trafficking and conspiracy to facilitate illegal immigration in January. Yousaf, of Dudley Road, Ilford, Essex, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to facilitate illegal immigration at the same hearing.
A 26-year-old Pakistani national, also wanted in relation to the investigation, has now been arrested in Germany after a European Arrest Warrant was issued.
Home Office criminal investigator Mark Jacobs said: “This is an appalling case where a vulnerable woman was brought to the UK on false pretences and held against her will for several weeks.
“It was the criminals’ intention for her to marry a Pakistani man to help him extend his stay in the UK.
“Thanks to the victim’s detailed account of her ordeal, we were able to gather overwhelming evidence against Sivak and Yousaf which helped put them behind bars where they belong.
“This case should serve as a warning to other criminals who think they can profit from this evil trade. Our specialist crime teams have the skills, expertise and resources to bring you to justice.”