Human Traffickers jailed

|News, International and organised crime

Four Czech nationals who made a victim retract his evidence in a human trafficking trial and held him against his will in the Czech Republic and persuaded another witness not to attend court to give evidence have been jailed for 18 and half years today, 11 September, at Plymouth Crown Court.

Ruzena Tancosova, Katerina Ruzena Tancosova, Lenka Cmejlova and Libuse Sindelarova targeted a witness who had given evidence against Katerina Tancosova and members of her family who were convicted of running a criminal enterprise.

In summing up, His Honour Judge Lawrie said: "You all played a part in the conspiracy of trafficking vulnerable people. You all closely ensured the trafficking between the Czech Republic and United Kingdom over a prolonged and persistent period. It is clear a period of imprisonment is forthcoming."

They trafficked individuals to the UK ostensibly to work but then exploited them by using threats and violence, and treated them as commodities to be used however the defendants saw fit. They were forced to live in squalid conditions whilst being put to work to pay off nonexistent debts they were told they had incurred.

A crucial witness and victim of human trafficking travelled from the Czech Republic to give evidence at their trial before returning to his home in the Czech Republic. Tancosova, Cmejlova, Sindelarova and Tancosova tracked down the witness and made him withdraw his evidence by writing a letter to the trial judge. Sindelarova took the victim to a solicitor to witness the letter being written.

When the UK police went to the Czech Republic to find the witness to ask him about his letter, he could not be located as he was being detained at an address occupied by members of the Tancos family to avoid detection, causing the trial to be halted.

Ruzena Tancosova also targeted a second witness and persuaded him not to attend court to give evidence.

Ann Hampshire, of the CPS, said: "The actions of Tancosova, Cmejlova, Sindelarova and Tancosova saw one witness pressured into not attending to give evidence and a second witness pressured into claiming his evidence was false, leading to the collapse of a trial and allowing criminals to evade justice for a year-and-a-half . This had a significant impact on the victims and witnesses. The failed and subsequent trial wasted almost £1 million, being counsel fees, defence costs and additional police costs. This was an unusual case but the evidence presented by the CPS and gathered by the police in the UK, the Czech Republic and the USA established a very strong case which resulted in the four defendants pleading guilty to the offences."

This investigation and subsequent convictions was only possible due to the international cooperation of law enforcement agencies in Europe and elsewhere in the gathering of evidence, securing the attendance of witnesses and in the subsequent arrests and extradition from the Czech Republic of these four defendants.

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