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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 November 2005, 19:41 GMT
Passport to prostitution
By Marie Jackson
BBC News, London

Gavril Dulghieru
A judge said Gavril Dulghieru was clearly a "very major player"
Six months ago, a young Moldovan girl set off on a flight bound for the UK, where the streets, she believed, were paved with gold.

Filled with optimism for a brighter future and a lucrative job, she showed a bogus Norwegian passport to immigration officials at Luton Airport and set foot in Britain.

The flight and passport had not come cheap. At 20,000 it was a debt she knew would have to be paid off over time.

But her new job as a club dancer in London would help and perhaps a little bit of her income could be sent home to her family.

Barred cellar

The reality though was quite different.

Within hours of landing, the young woman found herself in a barred cellar.

Giving evidence six months later, in the trial of a couple who helped smuggle hundreds of young eastern European women into Britain, the young woman said she was then forced into a life of prostitution instead of on the dance floor as promised.

Tamara Dulghieru
Tamara Dulghieru faces deportation after serving her jail sentence

In court, she spoke of being frightened and appalled at the prospect of her new career, but was warned of people being killed and physically threatened if she did not follow orders.

Her ordeal, which saw her working in various brothels including one in Soho, only ended when she escaped while the madam in charge slept.

She was not alone.

Gavril Dulghieru and his wife Tamara, from Tooting, south London, had cast their net much, much wider.

Although police are unable to put a figure on the number who were unwittingly led into prostitution, they have found identities linked to some 600 flights suggesting as many female victims.

While not all were pushed into London's brothels, those that were served up to 30 customers a day during 20-hour shifts.

They are forced into prostitution by both physical threats and inferred threats against their family
Det Sgt Alan Fitzgerald

Det Sgt Alan Fitzgerald, who led the investigation, said the crimes were shocking.

"The worst aspect is the total degradation that girls go through. It's hard to believe that this sort of treatment is going on in this country."

Det Sgt Fitzgerald said they came from poor countries like Moldova, making the financial lure of prosperous Britain so much stronger.

"What happens once they are here is the treatment is very poor. They are forced into prostitution by both physical threats and inferred threats against their family.

"They are told they have a colossal debt to the organised crime group, but it is unlikely they could ever pay it off."

He says there are many still out there.

In court, Judge John Rylands said Mr Dulghieru was clearly a "very major player" but he did not doubt there were others above him.

He said he suspected that the full picture may "never be known".

In the meantime, the Dulghierus both face jail - Mr Dulghieru nine years and his wife five - and the prospect of deportation once released.


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