Rob Waugh TWO Albanian illegal immigrants have become the first men in the UK to be convicted of the new offence of human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Taulant Merdanaj, 27, and Elidon Bregu, 19, were jailed for 18 years and nine years respectively after imprisoning two Lithuanian women in a flat in Sheffield and forcing them to work as prostitutes.
TWO Albanian illegal immigrants have become the first men in the UK to be convicted of the new offence of human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
Taulant Merdanaj, 27, and Elidon Bregu, 19, were jailed for 18 years and nine years respectively after imprisoning two Lithuanian women in a flat in Sheffield and forcing them to work as prostitutes.
In total, Merdanaj was convicted of 13 offences at Sheffield Crown Court, including rape, false imprisonment and causing or inciting prostitution, as well as human trafficking for sexual exploitation both into the UK and within the UK.
Bregu was found guilty of false imprisonment and trafficking within the UK for sexual exploitation.
The women, aged 24 and 21, arrived from Lithuania in the summer believing they were coming to work in legitimate jobs.
But after arriving separately at London's Heathrow airport, in July and August, they were taken to Sheffield where they were imprisoned in a flat in Park Hill. There, they were subjected to sexual attacks and forced to work as prostitutes at a massage parlour called Club 160, in Attercliffe.
The women were accompanied to and from work, and kept under constant supervision to stop them escaping.
The court heard they only escaped after they started a rumour that guns were kept in the house which led to a police raid on September 7.
Judge Justice Bullimore said the women were terrified and had no free will and must have been frightened beyond belief.
When sentencing the men, he said: "There is ruthlessness in both of you so the sentences must be long to warn others this conduct will not be tolerated."
The successful prosecution was the first under the human trafficking section of Sexual Offences Act 2003, which came into force in May this year.
Judith Walker, Chief Crown Prosecutor for South Yorkshire said: "The victims in this case were taken from their homes in Lithuania and set to work as prostitutes in a massage parlour. They were also held as prisoners in a flat by the two men and used for sexual exploitation.
"Anyone who was in court could not fail to be moved by their testimony of what they endured. We would like to thank the victims in this case for their courage in giving evidence.
"Human trafficking is a crime which causes enormous misery and suffering. We view the use of this new legislation as an important step forward in protecting vulnerable women from outside and within the UK who are deprived of their freedom and are sexually exploited for the gain of others."
The case came as the European Union pledged to step up the fight against human trafficking gangs, which, the EU's new anti-crime commissioner, Franco Frattini, warned were increasingly targeting children of both sexes, as well as adults, to be sold into sexual slavery.