A couple from Poplar, have been been jailed for a total of 16 years April 27 2012 for trafficking women into the UK and forcing them to work as prostitutes.
Snaresbrook Crown Court heard that Sandra Malina, 22 and Ainars Zvirgzds, 44, lured women from Latvia and Lithuania with the promise that they could get jobs in massage salons, and that sex with the clients was optional.
The prosecution case was that when they arrived in the UK, their passports were taken off them and they were sent to work as prostitutes. It was alleged that the women were beaten by their captors, and threatened with a gun, if they refused to comply.
Detectives from the Metropolitan Police Service’s Human Exploitation and Organised Crime Command arrested Malina and Zvirgzds at their Poplar home address in Susan Constant Court on July 15 2011. They were acting on information received from a friend of one of their victims.
The jury at Snaresbrook Crown Court heard from three women victims, who cannot be named for legal reasons. They described the treatment they received at the hands of the couple.
The 20 year old woman described how a friend, who worked for Zvirgzds, contacted her, and said she was earning between £200 and £300 a week working in a massage salon. The woman was told that she could earn extra money if she had sex with the clients, but that this was optional. Victim A accepted the job, but stated that she did not want to have sex with the clients.
Zvirgzds bought her a plane ticket to the UK. She arrived on May 18, 2010, was met at Stansted Airport by Zvirgzds who drove her to an address in Plaistow, East London, in his Jaguar.
Victim A was informed that a profile of her would be put on the Internet, and that she was to have sex with her clients. She received her first client later that day, who paid £100 for a sex act, and was told that she would receive £40. Victim A described how she felt ‘scared and disgusted.’
Upon arriving in the UK victim A was told to give her passport to Zvirgzds, which she did, feeling that she was unable to refuse. Her passport was later found in a safe in a bedroom wardrobe when police raid the couple’s home. During her time working for Zvirgzds she was made to perform a number of sexual acts in return for money at multiple addresses.
It was alleged that she was given drugs and shown a gun by Zvirgzds in order to gain her compliance.
Victims B and C
Two other women, referred to as victim B and victim C, also gave evidence in court, about their time spent in forced prostitution, under the control of Zvirgzds and Malina. Both of these women were found in the same premises as Zvirgzds and Malina when they were arrested, along with a firearm, concealed above a bathroom wall cabinet. They were 22 and had had their passports taken from them.
Detective Sergeant John O’Brien, from the Met’s Human Exploitation and Organised Crime Command, said: “Often criminals will suggest the streets of London are paved with gold and that they can offer them a better life and these vulnerable people are then exploited when arriving in the UK.
No-one should be able to control another person and exploit them for personal gain. This case highlights that if you come forward and talk to the police, we will do all that we can to bring people such as Zvirgzds and Malina to justice.”
Ainars Zvirgzds was jailed Friday April 27 2012 for a total of 13 and a half years, having pleaded guilty at a previous hearing on January 19 2012. Zvirgzds was convicted of a number of crimes including: trafficking into the UK for sexual exploitation, controlling prostitution for gain and possession of a firearm.
Sandra Malina had previously been sentenced to two and a half years, having been found guilty of two counts of controlling prostitution for gain in relation to victims B and C, although was acquitted on all charges related to victim A.
The end of this case is seen as a significant development in the inquiries of the Met’s new Human Exploitation and Organised Crime Command that was established in 2010.
Human trafficking for sexual gain as a criminal offence was created by the 2003 Sexual Offences Act and recognised that men or women working in the sex industry who have been tricked, defrauded, or forced to work by threats and intimidation across national borders should be recognised as victims and protected by the law. They are also entitled to statutory anonymity in court proceedings.
Since the Command began its work, it has secured a number of court convictions of men and women who have been involved in sexual trafficking. Another couple were jailed between them for 12 and a half years in October 2011 for human trafficking of women to work as prostitutes in Chelsea and Earl’s Court.
Human trafficking as a crime does not solely relate to the sex industry and prostitution. In March 2011 a woman from Harrow, 68, received a suspended jail sentence for keeping a Tanzanian woman as a modern-day slave at her Harrow bungalow.
At a time when European countries are experiencing a wider gulf in the distribution of wealth, the concept of slavery and human exploitation is being redefined and recognised as a criminal offence requiring police investigation, and trial and punishment.
The Centre for Social Justice is currently carrying out a research study: “to identify how the UK is reacting to the number of slaves kept within its borders. This review will explore the nature and extent of this growing problem, and develop evidence-led policy recommendations and an implementation strategy to enable the UK to be the benchmark for anti-slavery practice in Europe and the world.”