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A couple have been jailed for running a human trafficking network in Bristol after they exploited more than 40 people and forced them to work without pay.
Maros Tancos and Joanna Gomulska, both 46, were the ringleaders of a modern slavery and human trafficking operation and have been sentenced for a total of 25 years.
Set up to fulfil the pair’s gambling fund, the court heard how Tancos would recruit vulnerable people from Slovakia who were often raised in orphanages or living in camps, and would promise them transport to the UK, somewhere to live and food. Victims were told they would get to keep half of their wages every month, whilst the other half would go towards food and living costs.
Upon entering the UK, Tancos’ co-conspirator Gomulska would then take the identity documents of the victims and only release them when they were needed for applications like National Insurance numbers or bank accounts. She would also accompany victims to appointments and would act as the interpreter before taking their bank cards and pin numbers. Victims would work at Tancos’ car wash business during the day and would then partake in menial tasks throughout the night which included catching chickens, packing milk and sorting parcels.
A total of 42 victims were interviewed by specialist officers and 29 gave evidence of the abuse they suffered in court. They stated their time with the defendants as “catastrophic” and said they were humiliated, hit and punished by Tancos. “The only thing I knew was work,” said one victim. “All the time I was thinking that I was a slave there. I thought there was no way back.”