Five members of an organised crime group have been convicted of conspiring to traffic women into the UK for sexual exploitation.
A spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said the group had operated from a range of locations, including Crawley.
Hungarian nationals Mate Puskas, Zoltan Mohacsi, Istvan Toth and Peter Toth, along with Puska’s former girlfriend Victoria Brown, were found guilty today (Tuesday January 7) following a trial at Hove Crown Court.
Istvan Toth and Peter Toth were convicted in their absence.
The CPS spokesman said the charges covered more than 60 incidents spanning just under two years, during which young women were brought from Hungary into the UK with their ‘profiles’ uploaded on to a website advertising sexual services for sale.
Individuals would respond by calling mobile phones controlled by the defendants, who then arranged for them to meet the young women at a hotel or at houses run by the defendants as brothels.
Portia Ragnauth, acting chief crown prosecutor CPS South East, said: “None of us can imagine how desperate the victims were in this case. In many instances, they came to the UK to try to escape financial difficulties at home.
“Payments for their flights were often made by one of the five individuals convicted today.
“Once in the UK these ‘debts’ were used as a hold over the women who were forced to work for up to 12 hours a day.
“When the women told the group they did not want to work as prostitutes, threats would be made against them and their families back in Hungary.
“Threats were also made to expose the work they had been doing in the UK in their home country.
“I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the bravery of the victims who gave evidence in this case, one who gave evidence from behind a screen in the UK, and two others who gave evidence via a live video-feed from Hungary.
“We know how incredibly difficult it was for them, especially as we know that the reach of this criminal group extends back to Hungary. It has not been easy for them, but we hope that today’s verdict brings them justice and allows them to now move on with their lives.
“The CPS was assisted greatly by the police and judicial authorities in Hungary to bring this prosecution.
“Without this cross-border cooperation achieving justice for these women would have been considerably more difficult.”
The group is due to be sentenced today.