A man exploited a Slovakian woman, forced her into a sham marriage and made threats that she and her family would be killed if she refused.
Ladislav Pilo, 39, of Staromlynska, Nitra, Slovakia, collected the homeless and unemployed woman from the airport in January 2013 and drove her to his home at the time in Rock Road, Peterborough.
In May 2013 the woman was ‘sold’ by Pilo for £5,000 and was ordered to marry 38-year-old Luton man Samad Shinwari, a Pakistani national, so he could obtain UK residency.
Pilo told the woman she wouldn’t have to live or sleep with Shinwari, just visit occasionally, and acted as a translator for the pair as they spoke different languages.
He threatened to send the woman back to Slovakia if she didn’t go through with the marriage, telling her that she and her family would be killed if she returned.
Two months later, in July 2013, Pilo told the woman she was getting married and an Islamic wedding ceremony was held at Pilo’s Peterborough home.
The victim didn’t understand what was happening during the ceremony as she didn’t speak English, but Pilo translated.
In August Pilo told the woman to pack her things to live with Shinwari at his home at the time in Clarendon Road, Luton, and drove her there.
After a few days the woman discovered she was pregnant as a result of an unconnected relationship whilst she lived in Peterborough. Pilo threatened her and ordered her to abort the pregnancy.
The woman married Shinwari at a civil wedding ceremony in Luton in November. Pilo and his family attended, and posed photographs were taken to be used for the Home Office immigration appeal.
Marriage facts from a cheat sheet
Over the next seven months the woman was moved from Luton to Peterborough when needed for Home Office meetings. She was also required to learn relationship facts from a ‘cheat sheet’ to prove her marriage was ‘genuine’. Pilo handed over control of the womans ID card to Shinwari.
The pair were interviewed by immigration officers in Liverpool in May 2014 but as they couldn’t understand each other, it was suspected their marriage wasn’t genuine. This decision was appealed by Shinwari and the woman was made to live with him as the appeal progressed.
In October 2014 Shinwari won the appeal and was granted his UK residency. Two months later the woman was given her Slovakian ID card back by Shinwari, and moved to another house in Luton where she lived independently.
The situation first came to the attention of police in April 2015 when, acting on intelligence, officers carried out a warrant at Pilo’s Peterborough home.
The woman was found living in Luton in the same month and moved to another location in the UK.
Pilo was interviewed by police three times between April 2015 and February 2017, but fled the UK while on police bail just hours after his last interview.
Shinwari was found guilty of conspiring to facilitate a sham marriage at Peterborough Crown Court in February 2018, and handed 30 months in prison.
Pilo was arrested on a European arrest warrant in Slovakia in April this year, and extradited to the UK.
When interviewed he offered a prepared statement denying the allegations and answered “no comment” to all other questions asked of him.
Pilo was later charged with conspiring to facilitate the commission of a breach of UK immigration law and also intentionally arranging travel within the UK of a person with a view to their exploitation.
He pleaded guilty to the charges during a previous hearing and was sentenced at Peterborough Crown Court yesterday (28 October), where he was handed a total of 54 months in prison.
Slavery and Trafficking Prevention Order
A Slavery and Trafficking Prevention Order (STPO) was also put in place indefinitely, banning him from:
•Arranging, providing or facilitating transport or accommodation for any person other than a member of his immediate family
•Arranging or facilitating marriage arrangements for any person other than a member of his immediate family
•Contacting, directly or indirectly, through any means whatsoever the victim in the case
Detective Superintendent Becky Tipping said: “This case highlights that slavery still exists here in Cambridgeshire and is anything but a thing of the past.
“This was a lengthy police investigation spanning many years and it is horrific to think what the victim has had to go through at the hands of Pilo. I have to praise the diligence and tenacity of the investigating officers, who along with excellent support from the Crown Prosecution Service, overcame many challenges to achieve this outcome.
“Pilo’s victim was approached on the streets of Slovakia and came to the UK for a better life but in reality, that couldn’t have been further from the truth. Being a modern-day slave drove her to attempt suicide on more than one occasion, but I am pleased to say she is now working to rebuild her life and is happy.
“The Slavery and Trafficking Prevention Order will help us safeguard further victims from Pilo once he serves his prison sentence.