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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 December 2005, 16:57 GMT
Sex trafficking gang sent to jail
Fejzullahu and Agron Demarku
Izzet Fejzullahu (left) and Agron Demarku face long sentences
Five Albanian men have been jailed for a total of 63 years for running a chain of brothels employing young women trafficked to Britain from Lithuania.

The 1.8m operation run by the Demarku brothers involved girls as young as 16.

Ringleaders Agron Demarku, 22, and his brother Flamur, 34, were given 18 years and Izzet Fejzullahu, 32, got 14 years.

Bedari Demarku, 22 - acquitted of the most serious charge of causing sex without consent - got eight years and his brother Xhevair, 29, five years.

Xhevair had pleaded guilty to trafficking within the UK and conspiracy to control prostitution before the start of the 11-week trial at Southwark Crown Court.

'Echoes of slavery'

Judge Anthony Pitts said it was a despicable trade with "echoes of slavery" which could not be tolerated by a civilised society.

He ordered all five men to be deported to their native Albania at the end of their sentences.

This was organised crime at its worst. These defendants preyed on vulnerable women who were trafficked from Lithuania into the UK for the purposes of extreme exploitation
Sergeant Paul Wooldridge
Clubs and Vice Unit

He also ordered the seizure of three Mercedes cars and a Suzuki jeep belonging to the defendants.

Further hearings will be held to decide on the confiscation of other assets, though much of the money made by the group is thought to have been sent back to Albania.

The police launched Operation Rotunda in December 2004 after receiving a tip-off from the BBC's Six O'Clock News, which had started an investigation into the disappearance of a 16-year-old Lithuanian girl.

The BBC learned the girl was ringing her parents from London, and police found her when they raided a brothel in Hounslow, where she was being forced to work as a prostitute.

An undercover operation, lasting four months, revealed the scale of the operation and revealed evidence of a number of women being forced to work as prostitutes against their will, including one teenager who had been a virgin before she was trafficked to the UK.

Prostitutes' calling cards on display in a phone box
Thousands of women are brought to Britain to work as prostitutes

The Demarku "family firm" also bought and sold several girls from other traffickers and on one occasion were filmed by police taking a girl to central London and selling her for 4,000.

The judge commended the officers on Operation Rotunda one of whom, Sergeant Mark Wooldridge, welcomed the sentences handed out to the Demarku gang and said he hoped it would serve as a warning to others seeking to "exploit" women.

He said: "this was organised crime at its worst. These defendants preyed on vulnerable women who were trafficked from Lithuania into the UK for the purposes of extreme exploitation."

The sentencing of the Demarku gang comes on the same day as a report which suggested that the number of British men using prostitutes had doubled in the last decade.

Flamur and Bedari Demarku
Flamur (left) and Bedari Demarku face deportation

The increased demand has inevitably led to a need for more and more girls and anti-trafficking campaigners they are being supplied from eastern Europe and other deprived parts of the world.

Christine Beddoe, director of the End Child Prostitution And Trafficking pressure group, said there was a certain responsibility on the shoulder of "punters" who used prostitutes.
Men who visit sex workers really should be...ensuring firstly that the women who are working there are women and not children, and that they are there of their own free will and have not been trafficked or treated badly
Christine Beddoe
Child prostitution campaigner

She told the BBC News Website: "Men who visit sex workers really should be paying attention to the conditions that are there and ensuring firstly that the women who are working there are women and not children, and that they are there of their own free will and have not been trafficked or treated badly."

If people believe a brothel is using trafficked or under-age girls they should leave and report it to the police, said Ms Beddoe.

She also called on Britain to sign up to the European Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings and said it would help to combat the trade.

The Home Office has said it backs action on trafficking but has not yet made a decision on whether to sign the convention, which imposes minimum standards for the treatment of victims of trafficking.


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