By Peter McLaren-Kennedy • 22 June 2022 • 19:03
Gate of Hell living conditions - Image NCA
The ruling on June 22 sees Maros Tancos and Joanna Gomulska, who brought at least 29 people into the country promising them a better life, sentenced to a total of 25 years in prison.
In reality, the victims were kept as “prisoners” in a property, forced to work without pay and any wages were spent by the couple on cars and gambling. The “slaves” were brought in from Slovakia with many having been raised in orphanages.
Forced to work in the couple’s car wash, the “slaves” were beaten and threatened with death. Most were forced to take on second jobs at night, with the couple taking their money to spend on themselves.
Prosecutors said in court that this was a “truly harrowing case” that had gone on for nearly ten years with victims “subjected to a life of misery to line the pockets of two ruthless individuals”.
Tancos, 45, and 46-year-old Gomulska were convicted of modern slavery and have been jailed for 16 years and nine years respectively.
According to Mark Morrison, Senior Investigating Officer at the National Crime Agency (NCA), most of the victims were men under the age of 30 who could not speak English.
Up to ten salves were kept in the three-bedroom house in Bristol at a time, with the doors locked if the couple went out. Those that looked to escape were threatened with death with the “slaves” sharing rooms with dirty carpets, blankets and bedding.
Morrison told Sky News: “There are multiple accounts of violence against them with beatings.
“The mental anguish that these men and women have gone through is absolutely abhorrent.”
Tancos, who is Slovakian, is understood to have links with children’s homes in Slovakia from where he had a ready supply of vulnerable victims, as well as from Hungary.
The deal would be that they could keep half of what they earned and Tancos would keep the remainder for boarding and lodging, however in reality he took everything they earned. To make sure they did no abscond the couple took all their ID documents, bank cards and phones, which they used not only as a hold over them but also to open bank accounts and to apply for credit.
According to the NCA, around £300,000 (€348,000) was transferred from the victims’ accounts and around £923,000 (€1,071,000) in wages were withheld assuming those that worked for them were paid the minimum wage.
Authorities in Slovakia alerted the NCA in 2017 after one of its citizens had “escaped from servitude” from an address in Bristol, according to Morrison. That prompted an investigation and in July 2017 the couple were arrested.
Sadly it has taken almost five years for justice to be served, with the couple who kept slaves in their Bristol house finally jailed.
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Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news.
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