Human Trafficking Organisers In Bristol Sentenced To 25 Years In Jail

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.

trafficking caught bristol article lead

Image via NCA

trafficking caught bristol article lead

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.”

In July 2017, the couple were arrested on suspicion of modern slavery and human trafficking offences. Both denied their involvement but after a trial lasting roughly three months, they were convicted by a jury at Bristol Crown Court.

NCA Branch Commander Colin Williams said: “Tancos and Gomulska treated their victims as possessions, exploiting their hope of a better life for themselves and their families to keep them in a never ending cycle of abuse. They were prisoners. The experiences they shared in court showed how mentally broken the couple left them. These people came from impoverished backgrounds to the UK with optimism, but instead had their vulnerability taken advantage of. Whilst they suffered, Tancos and Gomulska spent their victims’ wages on gambling and cars.”

He added: “The support from our international partners in Slovakia was pivotal in being able to trace victims who had returned home and meant they could give evidence via video links detailing the couple’s abhorrent behaviour dating back to 2008. Tackling human trafficking is one of our highest priorities, and we will continue to work with partners to pursue offenders and protect victims.”

Ruona Iguyovwe, Senior Specialist Prosecutor at the CPS, said: “This is a truly harrowing case of exploitation spanning nearly a decade, where people were trafficked and subjected to a life of misery to line the pockets of two ruthless individuals. Referring to the house as a ‘gate to hell’, one victim’s account shows how they felt trapped, unable to seek help without identity documents, locked in the house and threatened. Gaining the victims’ confidence has been fundamental to this case, and a significant amount of work went in to caring for, and engaging with them, throughout the process. I commend every person who testified for their bravery.”

Recently, the NCA launched a new campaign urging people to think twice about where they spend their money to avoid inadvertently supporting modern slavery. For information on signs to look out for, head here.

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