Leader of Norfolk prostitution ring found guilty
The main figure in a human sex trafficking ring that brought women from Lithuania to Norfolk is set to face a 'lengthy sentence' after being found guilty at Norwich Crown Court.
A jury found Nerijus Lekecinskas, 33, of Meadowland Drive, Bradwell, guilty by unanimous verdict for controlling a person in prostitution for gain, trafficking within the UK for sexual exploitation and one count of rape. He was found not guilty of another count of rape.
Joining him the dock was Skirmantas Kvedaras, 47, of no fixed address, who was found guilty of one count of rape and not guilty of another.
Yesterday's verdict follows a long-running investigation into human trafficking named Operation Feed, which culminated in raids in eight homes across Great Yarmouth last October. It focused on a gang who lured women from Eastern Europe to Britain for prostitution.
Leading the swoop, at the heart of which was Lekecinskas' home in a quiet cul-de-sac, was Norfolk Police Detective chief inspector Rickie Botwright.
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He said that Lekecinskas in particular was a key figure in the trafficking organisation.
He said: 'Naturally I'm very pleased with the verdict and I'm very grateful to the prosecution team for their efforts and the members of the jury for their time and consideration.
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'The important thing for me is that it's been over a year since we began this investigation, and though it's been very difficult with limited staff we have achieved some excellent results.
'It's important to emphasise also that there are more victims of human trafficking in the world today than at any other point in history and today sends a massive message out to those who would traffic humans.'
The police operation was prompted after a 20 year-old woman was forced to leave Lithuania, brought into this country and taken to an address in London where she said she was forced to work as a prostitute.
She was arrested after smashing some windows at the property where she was staying, at which point she told police about the crime ring.
Over the course of the trial the jury heard how Lekecinskas had driven to Gatwick airport to pick up the victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, after stopping to pick up a companion in Romford.
He then took her to Luton, where the defendant had claimed he discussed cars with another man, before taking her to Great Yarmouth, where she remained. It was over this period that she was repeatedly raped.
October's raids followed 10 months of investigation, and included collaboration with the UK border agency as well as a human trafficking unit newly set up in Lithuania.
The raid, which was attended by television star Ross Kemp as part of a new programme on gangs, involved 40 officers and led to six arrests.
Ch Insp Botwright said that investigations were continuing, with prosecutions hoped to follow. He added: 'I've been to Lithuania several times and I know that this verdict will have a positive impact. When we met the victim our message was that we believed her and we would do our best to identify her traffickers and convict them.
'There's a wide network within the UK and I think a very concentrated effort by all law enforcement agencies could put a stop to this. This is a significant step towards that.'
Judge Alasdair Durroch warned both defendants that they faced 'lengthy sentences' before adjourning the case for sentencing to August 31.