UK and Latvian police team up to break human trafficking ring

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Police in Latvia and the United Kingdom have combined forces to break a cruel human trafficking ring, the UK's state prosecutor, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said November 7.

Nine members of an organised crime group based in central England and Latvia have been jailed for human trafficking offences against 28 victims.

"The gang targeted vulnerable people by offering work in the UK. Once in Derby, victims were housed in squalid conditions and sent to work in manual jobs. The gang took victims’ passports and identity documents to set up bank accounts in their names but kept the cards. When the victims were paid, the gang would withdraw funds from their accounts and keep it for themselves, funding their own lavish lifestyles," the CPS said in a release once the verdict in the major case had been returned.

Prosecutors used European Arrest Warrants to bring four defendants arrested in Latvia to the UK to stand trial. Eleven defendants were charged with human trafficking and modern slavery.

"The victims were targeted because the defendants knew they would be vulnerable. Many were overcoming extremely challenging personal circumstances. However, these victims received support from all partners involved to support them to give evidence during the trial, either in the UK or via a video link from Latvia," the CPS said.

A trial started in September 2018. Seven weeks into the trial, after 15 of the 28 victims identified by the investigation had given evidence, nine of the defendants pleaded guilty to human trafficking.

Linsey Farnsworth, from the CPS, said: “The case against these defendants was compelling. In each case the CPS produced evidence secured by investigators here and in Latvia that proved the defendants were targeting vulnerable people, bringing them to Derby and taking the wages they were earning.

“Of the 28 victims identified, 15 gave crucial evidence of the way they were treated by the defendants, providing a harrowing account of the human impact of this group’s crimes," the CPS said.

"Having seen the compelling nature of the evidence and the courage and determination of the victims, these defendants had no option but to plead guilty," it added.

Ainars Pelcis, 54, was sentenced to 5.5 years in prison, Magdalena Kleina, 55, was sentenced to 5.5 years in prison, Madara Stromane, 24, was sentenced to 6 years in prison, IIgvars Pelcis, 33, was sentenced to 3 years, 8 months in prison, Karens Pelcis, 25, was sentenced to 6 years in prison, Jolanta Pelce, 37, was sentenced to 2 years in prison, Karlis Aleksandrovs, 42, was sentenced to 2 years in prison, Andris Krauklis, 39, was sentenced to 1 year, 3 months in prison, Imitra Didzus, 33, was sentenced to 1 year, 2 months in prison.

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