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Human traffickers jailed

THREE human traffickers who smuggled a Slovakian couple into Scotland in a bid to force the woman into a sham marriage have been jailed for a total of nine years.

Helena Kulova, 47, Renata Kulova, 20, and Ivan Balog, 27, were convicted of human trafficking following a three-and-a-half-week trial.

The trio had brought Atilla Lakatosova and Anna Tothova to Scotland in a bid to sell Miss Tothova to a potential husband in a forced marriage.

Helena Kulova had met the couple – described by police as "vulnerable" – in Slovakia and promised them a better life in the UK. When they arrived in Glasgow they were met by Renata Kulova and taken to a flat in the city, where they met Balog before having their ID documents stolen.

Police said the pair had become modern-day slaves at the hands of the three human traffickers – all also Slovakian. The trio tried to coerce Miss Tothova into a sham marriage – and she was then taken to Perth.

Detective Inspector Mike Pirie, of Tayside Police, said officers had swooped when Miss Tothova called her mother in Bratislava and told of her plight. She contacted the local police – who brought in Interpol, the Metropolitan Police, the Serious Organised Crime Agency and the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency to investigate.

A jury at Dundee Sheriff Court last month convicted Helena Kulova, Renata Kulova and Balog of human trafficking and repeatedly attempting to make Miss Tothova agree to a marriage with a view to obtaining a benefit for themselves.

Renata Kulova was also found guilty of stealing identification documents belonging to the couple.

Yesterday, Sheriff Elizabeth Munro jailed all three for three years each.

Passing sentence, she said: "There is no doubt this is a serious offence that can attract a maximum sentence of 14 years' imprisonment.

"In my view, you took advantage of a vulnerable young woman in Anna Tothova and you did that with the intention of making financial gain out of that exploitation. That is extremely serious and only a custodial sentence is appropriate."

Speaking after the sentencing, Andrew McIntyre, who prosecuted the case, said: "Today we have seen justice delivered to three individuals who sought to benefit from the trafficking of another human being.

"In this case we worked closely with the Scottish police and international authorities to allow the Scottish jury to hear vital evidence from Slovakian police and the victim's family, via a live television link from Slovakia.

"I hope, therefore, this case makes clear the determination of Scottish prosecutors to tackle all forms of human trafficking and to use all powers available to us to bring the perpetrators of such crimes to justice."

The trio is just the second group to be convicted under new trafficking laws in Scotland.

Two years ago, Stephen Craig and ex-prostitute lover Ashleigh Beuken admitted moving 14 people to addresses in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Belfast, Cardiff and Newcastle.

Craig, 34, from Clydebank, was jailed for more than three years at Glasgow Sheriff Court, while Beuken, 23, of Edinburgh, received an 18-month sentence.

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Finance

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