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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 April, 2004, 18:02 GMT 19:02 UK
Vice ring boss's jail time doubled
Luan Plakici
Plakici married one of his young victims for her earning potential
A 26-year-old former asylum seeker has had his jail sentence more than doubled for smuggling kidnapped women into Britain to work as prostitutes.

Albanian Luan Plakici was originally ordered to serve 10 years, but the Attorney General appealed.

The original 10-year sentence was increased on Thursday to 23 years by the Court of Appeal.

Plakici, who headed a 1m gang, was convicted of offences including kidnap and incitement to rape in December.

Plakici exploited women for financial gain, terrifying his victims by beating and threatening to kill them if they did not comply with his demands
Det Supt Mark Holmes
Metropolitan Police

Attorney General Lord Goldsmith called the appeal court's decision "groundbreaking" and said it "sends a clear message that human trafficking is a despicable trade and one which we will not tolerate".

Lord Goldsmith said: "The Court of Appeal has given a clear indication of the need for substantial and deterrent sentences in human trafficking cases.

"I hope this judgement, one of the largest increases as a result of my appealing an unduly lenient sentence, will give the victims confidence to come forward."

'Harrowing ordeal'

The police detective who led the probe that led to Plakici's arrest and eventual conviction said he was "delighted" at the appeal court's decision.

It was the first time the court had considered a case involving the trafficking of women.

"Plakici exploited women for financial gain, terrifying his victims by beating and threatening to kill them if they did not comply with his demands," said Det Supt Mark Holmes.

"His victims have been through a harrowing ordeal. Not only were they raped, beaten, and falsely imprisoned, their hopes of a new life thwarted, but they had to go back through that ordeal in front of a courtroom."

The appeal court agreed with submissions made that the10-year sentence was "unduly lenient".

The evidence, Lord Justice Latham said, showed Plakici was a key part of the international smuggling operation.

"It is plain from the account given by the girls and the offender himself, he lived extravagantly," he said.

"He travelled extensively, wore designer clothes and at the time of his arrest was in possession of a Ferrari and BMW."

In all, Plakici was convicted of 15 offences after a two-month trial at Wood Green Crown Court, in north London. The jury deliberated for three weeks before delivering their verdict.

During the trial Plakici admitted facilitating the illegal entry into the UK of between 50 and 60 young women and seven counts of people trafficking.

Sex slaves

He even married one teenager before telling her she would be spending her wedding night working as a prostitute, forced her to have two abortions and then "return to work" within hours.

But he claimed he had gone no further than flouting immigration laws.

Police saw his conviction as a major victory, and Det Supt Holmes says the increase in Plakici's sentence "sends a clear message that the Met is determined to play its part in the fight against human trafficking."

After the original sentence was imposed, Beverly Hughes, then home office minister, praised the work by police and immigration investigators.

She also announced a pilot project that provides support to female victims of trafficking would receive Home Office funding of more than 700,000 for another year.

Two-month trial

Seven of Plakici's victims - from Romania and Moldova - gave evidence in the trial.

The court was told how they were lured from loving families with promises of a wealthier life in the west.

Plakici's Ferrari Spider
The day after he bought his Ferrari Spider dream car he was arrested

Instead the women were treated as prisoners and were bought, sold and sometimes raped on their journey to this country.

After they cleared immigration with fake passports, gang leader Plakici would find massage parlours for the women to work at.

They were told they had no option but to work as prostitutes, entertaining up to 20 men a day, seven days a week, in order to pay back their 8,000 "travel bill".

Another accused, 20-year-old Ismet Islami, of Palmers Green, north London, was found not guilty of one count of rape.

Trafficking: A human tragedy
19 Jun 00  |  Europe

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