Ileana, the teenage sex slave ready to work in London'You say she work for you. Or we have other ways' By David Harrison We get doctor's papers. You want see body? The next day in a smoky cafe, we agree a price. I have just agreed to buy Ileana Petrescu, a year-old Romanian woman.
Ileana was forced into prostitution two years ago. I am to be her third "owner" and the first to take her out of her home country. I had made contact with the young woman's controllers through an intermediary two days before we struck the deal. I had entered the murky underworld of human traffickers by posing as a British "businessman" looking to purchase Eastern European girls to "work" in a club in London. Related Articles Battle on sex slave trade 06 Nov Ileana had no say in the sale. When the pimps were there she spoke only once, to assure me, with sad, pleading eyes: The victims - most of whom are duped into believing that they are going to "normal" jobs as dancers, au pairs and housekeepers - are coerced into prostitution all over Western Europe.
Britain is a prime destination, as demand is constant, prices high and immigration controls are perceived to be lax. According to the Home Office, up to 6, girls a year are brought into Britain and sold into the vice industry, many by illegal immigrants and failed asylum-seekers from Eastern Europe. It is a relentless tide and officers admit that they are struggling against it.
The criminals are becoming more brazen. The girls, who believed that they were being taken on holiday to stay with a friend's father, were made to work as prostitutes in London and Sheffield under threat of torture and death, until they escaped. One was raped repeatedly by her Serbian-born pimp, Tasim Axhami, 19, who was jailed for 21 years.
His accomplice, Emiljan Beqirat, was sentenced to 16 years and Beqirat's girlfriend, Vilma Kizlaite, was given 11 years. Last week, two failed asylum-seekers from Moldova were jailed for bringing almost women into Britain illegally. Gavril Dulghieru, 36, who was sentenced to nine years, and his wife Tamara, jailed for five, used cloned credit cards, and stolen and bogus passports in one of Britain's biggest trafficking operations.
Back in Bucharest, the translator and I take Ileana away for what her pimps assume is a "test-drive" to check her suitability for "entertaining" clients at the mythical bar in London. In fact, we head to a cafe and listen to her shocking but not unusual story.
At 16, Ileana, an ill-educated girl from a poor family, was gang-raped at the back of a disco in her home town near Bucharest. It was not just a random act by violent thugs, but a deliberate tactic, the first stage of her "breaking in". Soon afterwards, she was befriended by a young man who, unbeknown to her, was an accomplice of - possibly even one of - the rapists.
He became her boyfriend and "behaved like a gentleman", she says. As a traumatised, vulnerable teenager she was thrilled to meet someone so kind.
But, in reality, she was a victim of the "lover-boy" pimp trap, a ploy used by traffickers to ensnare young women suspicious of adverts offering jobs as "dancers" abroad. After six weeks, Ileana's "boyfriend" took her to a Black Sea resort town for the weekend. As soon as they arrived, she was sold to a pimp for euros, locked in a darkened room and forced to service clients day and night. That ordeal lasted for a year before she was returned to Bucharest and sold to her present owners.
For the past two years, she has been forced to have sex with an average of four customers a night. Yet her parents, who she still visits at Christmas, believe her story that she is working in a shop.
She shows no emotion about going to London and accepts that she will work as a prostitute: But as she puffs on a cigarette and drinks Coke from a bottle there is a sign that her spirit is not completely crushed. If she does this I will cut off her hair," she blurts out. During the negotiations for Ileana, the senior pimp gives her a good reference. Or we have other ways. Eventually, satisfied with my answers, he comes up with the figure of 2, euros.
Pleased with the prospect of a fast buck - and confident that he will quickly replace Ileana with what he calls "fresh meat" - he assures me casually that I will get my money back by taking all of Ileana's earnings until she has paid off the 2, euros.
Ileana was one of three women offered to me for sale in Bucharest last week. The first trafficker changed his mind when his boss ruled that Ioana, another slender brunette - who was also priced at 2, euros and seemed excited at the prospect of going to London - was making him so much money that he did want to lose her. The second girl, Elena, was offered to me by a baseball cap-wearing pimp in his forties called Gianni. We arranged to meet Elena, Gianni and Elena's "owners" in the city's Uniril Square the following night.
Gianni arrived first and then a car with tinted windows and two heavies sitting in the front screeched to a halt before us. A nervous, pretty, sparrow-like blonde climbed out of the back seat. She looked terrified and, in an incongruously polite touch, proffered her hand to shake.
Gianni explained that Elena was "quite new but very good". The two thugs asked me about my business and how I planned to take Elena back to England.
She didn't have a passport but they could help with that, they said. I spent 20 uncomfortable minutes with them and arranged to meet again the next day when they would give me a price.
But by then I had agreed to buy Ileana. The day before striking the deal for Ileana, I drive to the 1,inmate high-security prison in Giurgiu, near the Bulgarian border, 40 miles south of Bucharest.
Among its prisoners are 26 convicted people-traffickers. With sentences ranging from four to nine years, the traffickers all protest their innocence before going on to reveal the secrets of their sordid but lucrative business. They paint a depressing picture and say that the same could be said of many other ex-Soviet bloc countries.
Most of the girls targeted by the recruiters are vulnerable teenagers, in the optimum age bracket of 15 to They invariably come from poor, troubled families in the towns and villages of southern Romania, including Calarashi, Slobozia and Constanta.
The initial recruiters are usually women, sometimes even the girls' own mothers. Some are taken to work in Bucharest and other cities, before being moved on, often to Western Europe, many via "girl markets" in Albania and Macedonia. They are promised good jobs but when they arrive, their passports are seized and many are imprisoned in dingy rooms and they are forced to sell their bodies. Almost all their profits must be handed over to the pimps. Resistance is punished with gang-rape and beatings.
One inmate, Niculina Nicu, a tough-looking year-old from Bucharest serving eight years for selling a woman for euros, says girls are often sold several times in Romania before being trafficked abroad to satisfy the seemingly endless demand. Trafficking is carried out by people along the routes, he says, from village women who encourage girls to apply for "dancing jobs" abroad, to corrupt border guards. Nicu insists that the girls would be worse off if they did not have pimps to "protect" them.
Another trafficker, Caldararu Dumitru, 44, also serving eight years for trafficking, admits that many girls are given bogus contracts and forced into prostitution. Critics say the police do not do enough to catch traffickers and accuse officers of taking bribes from pimps. Eighty miles north-west of the capital, in the town of Pitesti, Iana Matei, who runs a refuge for women who have escaped forced prostitution, is angered by the suggestion that women enjoy being raped, beaten and forced to have sex with dozens of strangers.
The British police deport them but the traffickers meet them at the airport and they are back in England within three weeks. Governments should co-operate so the girls can be helped back to their families or to shelters and the police can catch the traffickers.
Slowly, bravely, Alina, who left school at 14, tells me how she was pushed into prostitution by her own mother, a violent, hard-drinking divorcee from Slobozia, a small town 10 miles south-east of the capital. They told her there was a housekeeper's job in Rome and her mother pressured her to go to make money for Alina's young son. Alina and two other girls were taken in a minibus on a two-day journey through Hungary and Austria to a hut on the outskirts of Rome where she was raped and beaten by her neighbour and two other men.
She was given a "patch" at a bus-stop and ordered to charge men 50 euros for five minutes of sex in a car park guarded by the pimps. She resisted and was punched in the face, before being sold weeks later to three Romanians who hit and raped her. They kept her and five other girls in a disused, windowless freight train carriage with only a blanket to sleep on - and forced her to do more euro sex sessions.
Alina escaped one night when the pimps got drunk and left the carriage door open. She went to the police and gave evidence in court to help convict the traffickers. She was taken back to Romania in August and now lives at the shelter, trying to rebuild her life with her son, Robert, five. Following the Sunday Telegraph investigation, details of her controllers have been passed on to the Romanian police who have launched an investigation.
A police spokesman said: