Jail for people trafficker who brought victims to Swindon

By Barrie Hudson - 6 February 2024


Two people have been sentenced over modern slavery and human trafficking offences after bringing female victims to Swindon and putting them to work in brothels.

Appearing at the town's Crown Court, Gigi Ciobanica, 46, of Grasmere Road, Birmingham, was sentenced to five years for engaging in human trafficking and three years for money laundering, to run concurrently. 

Ciobanica will also be subject to a Slavery Trafficking Prevention Order which he will need to comply with on his release from prison. 

This will be for a period of 10 years and has a number of conditions designed to prevent him from engaging in such offences in the future.

Priyantha Yakdehige, 54, of no fixed abode, was sentenced to a two year suspended sentence for engaging in human trafficking. 

He was given a suspended two month prison sentence after pleading guilty to money laundering and 200 hours of unpaid community work to be completed by 2 February next year.

A third person, Cristina Olaru, was also found guilty to controlling prostitution for gain and money laundering. Olaru, 31, of Commercial Road, Swindon, failed to appear for sentencing and a warrant has been issued for her arrest.

Wiltshire Police's investigation dates back to 2018, and focused on an organised criminal gang (OCG) trafficking young women from Romania to the UK. 

The victims were then put to work as sex workers at brothels in the Swindon area, with the proceeds of the crime then laundered.

An investigation was launched by the Force’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) which sought to dismantle and bring to justice those responsible for the trafficking and exploitation of the young women. 

Working closely with partner agencies and other parts of the Policing family, an understanding of how the group operated was formed and culminated in a number of arrests and charges following the investigation phase. 

Supported by the National Crime Agency, whose involvement assisted with the arrest and extradition of suspects from overseas, the eventual result has seen those at the top of the network brought to justice.

DS Richard Nelsen from SOCU said: “Modern Slavery is within our communities and is not something any of us can be complacent about in challenging.

“This group in particular worked in the Swindon area but we know that women were collected from Luton Airport and transported on ferries from France to the United Kingdom where they were put to work. 

"The conditions they worked in were poor and they often worked effectively 24/7 with customers being booked throughout the day and night.

“The exploited women were not in control of when they worked and those at the top took a heavy slice of any profit which was made.

“The group operated on a model where the ‘landlord’, Priyantha Yakdehige, would arrange and pay for flights, and then arrange accommodation for members of the OCG to live and work in. His role made the wider criminal enterprise possible and for this reason he was integral to its operation. 

"He profited from the criminal proceeds obtained from the prostitution, knowing how the money had been made.

“Gigi Ciobanica was the Romanian ‘boss’ who led the OCG and controlled the network of sex workers. He ensured the transportation, housing and activity of the exploited females was managed to ensure he profited directly and substantially. 

"He would funnel the money back to Romania to construct property in his name, whilst evading taxation and stealing from those he exploited.

“Cristina Olaru was, at the time of the investigation, the partner of Ciobanica. She controlled the listings for the sex workers and managed their finances, ensuring she and Ciobanica took a profit and arranged where they were located in houses provided by Yakdehige.

“This group has been dismantled within Swindon and the sentencing will send a further message to those who wish to engage in this criminality.

“The police cannot tackle this problem on our own and I would encourage members of our community to report any concerns or suspicions they have of such activity to their local Neighbourhood Teams or via 101 unless an emergency.”

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