A gang of traffickers behind the sexual exploitation of at least 250 women across 50 brothels in the UK has been jailed in one of the largest cases of its kind.
Seven men and four women, aged from 29 to 53 and all from Hungary, were arrested after a woman forced to work as a prostitute escaped from a London brothel and alerted police, Scotland Yard said.
The victim, now 26, had been left alone in a brothel in Newham, east London, in October 2013 when she fled by climbing over the back-garden fence and making her way to Ilford police station.
All 11 members of the gang were sentenced on Thursday at Southwark crown court to prison terms ranging from 20 months to 14 years.
DCI Phil Brewer, from the Metropolitan police trafficking and kidnap unit, said: “The victim’s courage in escaping the gang and telling police about what happened to her has ultimately resulted in this international investigation and the gang being jailed.”
The whistleblowing victim and one of the now-convicted sex traffickers, Jenö Burai, 30, began a relationship in Hungary but he soon became abusive, beating and threatening to kill her.
She was forced by Burai to work as a prostitute in Hungary and Austria before he brought her to the UK in July 2013, when she was again sometimes made to have sex with more than 10 men a day at a brothel in Peterborough.
Burai then sold her to Zsolt Blaga, 38, in Peterborough, to settle a debt. He told Blaga – also known as Snake – to beat the victim if she did not do as she was told.
Blaga took her to a brothel in Newham in October 2013, where he raped her twice and forced her to have sex with men.
But later that month the victim escaped and told police about the abuse she had endured at the hands of the traffickers.
The Met’s trafficking unit launched a joint investigation with Hungarian police and established Blaga and Burai were linked to a wider criminal network.
Between June and July 2014, Met officers and Hungarian police executed 39 search warrants and arrested 11 people, including Blaga and Burai.
Blaga was convicted of three counts of conspiracy to traffic into the UK, two counts of conspiracy to traffic within the UK, two counts of conspiracy to control prostitution and two counts of rape. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison.
Burai pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to traffic into the UK and one count of conspiracy to control prostitution. He was jailed for six years and eight months.
“This sophisticated and commercial-scale operation is one of the largest ever prosecuted by Crown Prosecution Service London,” the chief crown prosecutor, Baljit Ubhey, said.