Devon

Plymouth trafficking trial: Defendant denies death threats

Slavery raid
Image caption Arrests were made in September 2014 following house raids in Plymouth and one in Bodmin.

A Czech man accused of trafficking vulnerable immigrants to the UK has denied threatening to kill those that tried to contact the police.

Petr Tancos, 36, told Plymouth Crown Court the immigrants, thought to be from the Czech Republic, wanted to live in the UK.

Five defendants are standing trial accused of conspiracy to traffic for the purpose of exploitation.

All defendants deny the charges.

They were arrested in September 2014 following raids on properties in Plymouth and one in Bodmin, Cornwall.

Mr Tancos denied forcing one immigrant, Ladislav Chvojka, who has mental health problems, to cut the grass on his hands and knees with a kitchen knife when he lived with him in Plymouth.

Child 'threw stones'

He said they cut the grass together with an "electric lawnmower and sickle".

He denied forcing Mr Chvojka to sleep in his garage and said he was a friend who had asked to come with him to the UK in 2010 and liked living in the country.

Mr Tancos also denied slapping Mr Chvojka and encouraging his 10-year-old son to throw stones at him in the garden.

He said: "I was in the house when he played with Ladislav, but I did not encourage him. He liked Ladislav and Ladislav liked him".

The defendants, who all live in Plymouth, are:

  • Ruzena Tancosova, 34, of Union Street - charged with conspiracy to traffic for the purpose of exploitation, requiring a person to perform forced or compulsory labour and acting as a gangmaster
  • Petr Tancos, 35, of Ford Park Road - charged with conspiracy to traffic for the purpose of exploitation, requiring a person to perform forced or compulsory labour
  • Nela Dzurkova, 26, of Ford Park Road - charged with conspiracy to traffic for the purpose of exploitation
  • Martin Tancos, 35, of Saltash Road - charged with conspiracy to traffic for the purpose of exploitation and acting as a gangmaster
  • Katerina Kurejova, 35, of Saltash Road - charged with conspiracy to traffic for the purpose of exploitation

Edward Bailey, defending Tancos, asked him about an allegation that he threatened to "find and kill" another immigrant who lived with him, Miroslav Ritter, if he went to the police.

Mr Tancos said: "Never, I have small children and I don't want to make trouble like that for myself."

He said Mr Ritter stayed with him "because he didn't want to go back to the Czech Republic" and "he could leave anytime he wanted, he was a free man".

The defendant admitted withdrawing money from both victims bank accounts but said he had permission to do so.

The trial continues.

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