A SWINDON man will stand trial next month charged with nine human trafficking offences after pleading not guilty to all counts at a hearing yesterday.
Nerijus Gudelevicius, 33, of Melrose Close, Westlea, stands accused of three counts of trafficking a person into the UK for the purposes of exploitation, and six of knowingly holding a person in slavery or servitude.
Gudelevicius appeared at Swindon Magistrates Court without the aid of a Lithuanian interpreter yesterday, and spoke only to confirm his name and deny every charge put to him by the court.
Dressed casually in a blue T-shirt and jeans cut-off below the knee, he allowed an agent to speak on his behalf to answer each of the charges.
It is alleged that on or before March 27 of this year, Gudelevicius facilitated the arrival of an individual into the country with the intention of exploiting them.
The three charges put to him at the hearing relate to three different people from his native country of Lithuania.
The remaining six alleged offences relate to a further six individuals, that on or before March 27 this year the six were held in servitude in circumstances not of their control.
The offences are alleged to have taken place at two separate properties, one in Hunt Street and another at another location in Swindon.
James Burnham, for the prosecution, said the offences were far too serious to be dealt with in magistrates court and recommended a trial at Swindon Crown Court.
The sentencing guidelines for the charges could carry a prison sentence of up to 14 years, if convicted.
“These are very serious matters which, if proven, will carry a very lengthy sentence,” said Mr Burnham. “A number of people would have been affected over a period of time.”
Richard Williams, acting on behalf of Gudelevicius, said: “The allegations are vehemently denied.
“While the defendant speaks perfectly passable English he will require a Lithuanian to English interpreter for the next hearing.”
Margaret Penfound, chair of the bench, passed jurisdiction for all of the charges and transferred the case to the Crown Court for trial.
“Your first hearing will be on September 5 at Swindon Crown Court and we are granting you conditional bail until that date,” she said. “If you commit any sort of offence during that time that could make these offences even more serious.”
Eight Lithuanian nationals were discovered at the two separate locations after a significant police operation carried out in Swindon on March 27.
They were taken into the care of Wiltshire Police and various partnership agencies while they received continued support.