Gang found guilty of trafficking young women to work in Swindon brothels

The trial took place at Winchester Crown Court

Three people have been found guilty of trafficking women from Romania to Wiltshire and forcing them into sex work.

The verdict comes following a Wiltshire Police investigation dating back to 2015, which focused on an organised criminal gang trafficking young women into the UK.

The victims were put to work as sex workers at brothels in the Swindon area, and the money made from the crime was laundered.

Gigi Ciobanica, 46, of Grasmere Road, Birmingham, was found guilty of conspiracy to engage in human trafficking and money laundering.

Priyantha Yakdehige, 54, of Vasterne Close, Purton, was found guilty of conspiracy to engage in human trafficking and pleaded guilty to money laundering.

Cristina Olaru, 31, of Commercial Road, Swindon, was found guilty of controlling prostitution for gain and money laundering.

Yakdehige owned the properties the women were forced to work at and rented them out to the leaders of the Romanian gang Ciobanica and Olaru. The pair controlled the workers at the addresses and took a cut of the money earned.

In response, 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 girls 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.

The trial which took place at Winchester Crown Court lasted ten weeks.

The defendants are due to be sentenced on February 2nd, 2024. Ciobanica was remanded into custody.