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Armless beggar handlers go to jail

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08:55 CET+01:00
Four people who forced an armless man from Ukraine to beg in the Stockholm metro were handed prison sentences on Friday.

The four had exploited the 28-year-old man's vulnerable state in a ruthless manner, Stockholm district court ruled.

The head of the gang, a 24-year-old man, was sentenced to five years in prison for abduction, human trafficking and unlawful threats. A 28-year-old woman received three years for human trafficking.

The pair were also deported for a period of ten years and were ordered to pay 155,000 kronor ($19,300) in damages to the man.

Two other members of the gang were convicted as accomplices and received prison terms of nine and six months respectively. A fifth person was found not guilty.

The man was held prisoner for two years, but managed to escape in August by fleeing across the tracks at Stockholm central station and finding his way to Norrmalm police station.

He previously led a deprived life in Ukraine after losing both his arms in an accident. In 2006 he was offered work in an office in Moscow but instead fell into the hands of the gang of traffickers.

The gang confiscated the man's passport and prosthetic arms so that he could neither eat nor drink without assistance. When he protested, he was assaulted.

He was given alcohol to keep him calm.

The gang travelled around Europe with the man forcing him to beg. If he did not obey they threaten to harm his mother, according to the man's testimony.

In the Stockholm metro the 28-year-old was forced to sit with a sign around his neck which read "please help me so that I can get an operation".

The police believe that the man could have managed to beg a six figure sum, maybe in excess of one million kronor. But the man was himself not permitted to keep a single öre.

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