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Taken viewers SLAM 'joke' 5-year sentence given to head of an organised crime group

Viewers of Taken: Hunting the Sex Traffickers have slammed the 'joke' five year sentence given to the head of an organised crime group who made up to £1.3million a year and was found in Spain living in a 7-bedroom villa, with three Porsches and a yacht nearby.

The three-part Channel 4 documentary details the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit (ROCU) investigation into Mark Viner, 62, who last year was jailed for more than five years for trafficking women from Brazil to the UK to work in a brothel in Cheltenham. 

Last night's final episode focused on the process needed to make an arrest - which proved tricky after the police learned that Viner, who they discovered was making up to 1.3 milion a year, had moved to Spain. 

After officers finally managed to track his whereabouts, they found him living in a seven-bedroom villa with three Porsches, a Mercedes near to Barcelona. He also had 300,000 yacht, several other boats and jet skis in a marina nearby. 

Outraged viewers were quick to take to Twitter to slam Viner's 'lenient' five year, nine month sentence.

'Absolute shocker of a sentence. 5 yrs 9 months for human trafficking and exploiting sex workers. The beast will be out and enjoying his retirement fairly soon. Meanwhile his two cohorts escape unscathed. What the f***?!' wrote one.

Viewers of Taken: Hunting the Sex Traffickers have slammed the 'lenient' five year sentence given to the head of an organised crime group (pictured, Mark Viner) who made up to £1.3million a year

Mark Viner (pictured) was found in Spain living in a 7-bedroom villa, with three Porsches and a yacht nearby

Outraged viewers were quick to take to Twitter to slam Viner's five year, nine month sentence (pictured)

A second commented: 'I can’t believe they all got such lenient sentences! Heinous crimes which need much tougher sentences, absolute joke after all that time and expense spent building a case. So frustrating.'  

Meanwhile, a third agreed: 'You can go to prison for 3years for protesting about it, but 5 yrs, 9 months for Sex trafficking, running brothels and money laundering. What an absolute joke.' 

The investigation initially started after an anonymous tip-off letter was posted through the door of Cirencester police station. 

A two-year investigation into Mark Viner and his circle ensued, but police still had the tough task of finding damning evidence to prove that he trafficked women from Brazil to work in the brothels in Cheltenham.

WaQuas Khan (pictured) pleaded guilty to money laundering and was given a 22 month suspended sentence and 150 hours unpaid work

Lezlie Davies and Rosana Gomes (pictured( pleaded guilt to assisting the management of a brothel and were sentenced to 12 month community orders

To make matters worse, they had to work quick before Viner moved on to Brazil, where they knew they would be unable to touch him.     

Large-scale surveillance teams and undercover officers were used to gather evidence on Viner, his partner Davies and associate Rosana Gomes, by watching their every move.  

How many victims of modern slavery remain in Britain today?

The number of suspected modern slavery victims in the UK hit a record of more than 10,000 in April 2020. 

Some 10,627 potential victims of trafficking, slavery and forced labour were identified in 2019 compared with 6,986 in 2018, the Home Office data found.

The figures have been rising each year and are now the highest in a decade, after 546 were recorded in 2009.

The data looked at the number of potential victims of modern slavery who were identified and referred for support under the National Referral Mechanism (NRM).

The 'upward trend in referrals' is thought to be 'partly as a result of increased awareness of modern slavery and the NRM process', the Home Office report said.

The majority (6,564) claimed they were exploited in the UK only, and a quarter (2,762) said it had been only overseas.

A third were women or girls (3,391), who were most commonly referred for sexual exploitation.

Some 43 per cent of referrals (4,550) were for children - where criminal exploitation was the most common form, driven by a rise in the identification of so-called county lines drugs gangs.

According to the figures, 27 per cent of people referred were UK nationals (2,836) with Albanians (1,705) and Vietnamese (887) being the second and third most common nationalities.

The brothel operated out of a penthouse in Cheltenham where the trafficked women would be given profiles, which needed to be authenticated with a picture of the woman holding a copy of the day's paper at an identifiable location. 

Footage showed Viner photographing two women next to a post pox holding a copy of a newspaper before returning to the house. 

Their surveillance also revealed Viner was travelling to and from the UK frequently and was raking in as much as £4,000 a week with 'hardly any legitimate income'. 

For six months, officers also secretly filmed the car park of the premises believed to be at the centre of Mark Viner's operation.

It lead them to WaQuas Khan, and after searching his house, they discovered a wealth of evidence in a notebook that appeared to show several financial transactions - up to £30,000 - where Mark was named repeatedly.

When the total of the transactions were added up, it came to around 1.3 million a year. 

Before the case reached trial, Mark Viner pleaded guilty to 2 counts of human trafficking, keeping a brothel and money laundering.

The police estimated that they may confiscate up to £1 million of his assets.

Lezlie Davies and Rosana Gomes pleaded guilt to assisting the management of a brothel and were sentenced to 12 month community orders.

WaQuas Khan pleaded guilty to money laundering and was given a 22 month suspended sentence and 150 hours unpaid work.

And viewers were left less than impressed with the sentences.

'Feel like a six year sentence for becoming a millionaire after treating hundreds of women like slaves isn’t a deterrent though,' wrote one, while a second penned: 'Taken: Hunting the Sex Traffickers on C4 is just the tip of the iceberg. Scary how many vulnerable women are coerced into sex work so the scum get rich.'

A third added: 'How can these people be let off so lightly? The police have spent countless hours making a watertight case and the sentences are farcical. Not much of a deterrent for future scumbags!' while a fourth commented: 'Omg#Taken … I’m speechless! 5 years for everything he did?'

Elsewhere, a further commented: 'Imagine spending two years investiagting a sex trafficking and money laundering gang and they get the most pathetic sentences in court.'

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