Two Georgian nationals have been convicted of large scale human trafficking, though one was spared prison because she had a teenage son.
Vakjtang Jokhadze, 48, and Sophia Grdzelishili, 46, are divorced but still live together. Both acted as a “distribution network” to provide fake driving licences and ID cards from EU countries to Georgian illegal immigrants.
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that the pair would receive a request for these false identification documents, at which point they would pass on the order to an unknown third party to create them. The two would then mail the documents to their customers across Europe.
The Court was told that the customers were not forced to travel to Ireland for “nefarious purposes”, like prostitution or slave labour, but rather “asylum seeking” and economic migration.
Georgia has not been involved in a domestic war since 2008 – thirteen years ago – when it engaged in a very brief 12-day-long conflict with Russia. Moreover, as mentioned earlier, it has been established that the illegal ID documents were being sent to customers already in other parts of Europe, meaning that the Georgian clientele had already escaped whatever potential danger they were fleeing and had arrived at a safe European country.
Both Jokhadze and Grdzelishili, who live at St. Jarlath’s Road in Cabra, Dublin, pleaded guilty in court to facilitating the trafficking of illegal immigrants within the Irish State during mid to late 2019.
In addition to these charges, Jokhadze also pleaded guilty to the crimes of money laundering, making a gain by deception, and possession of false instruments – a kind of fraud offence – between 2012 and 2019. Gredzelishili pleaded guilty to committing this same fraud offence in late 2019.
According to prosecutor Garnet Orange SC, it was his belief that all offences committed by the pair were carried out with the intention of aiding and facilitating the human trafficking offences.
Judge Martin Nolan speaking on the incident said that the accused had received “considerable” sums of money for carrying out this facilitation of illegal migration, and that the customers availing of these fake ID documents were not, in fact, “vulnerable and downtrodden people”. They were simply people who wanted to “improve their financial lots” and leave a country they did not want to live in.
He described the pair’s actions as “quite a serious matter.”
However, he said that as far as human trafficking cases go, this was not of the “sinister variety.”
He added that the court must “engaged in a balancing act,” as Sophia Grdzelishili had a dependent teenage son, and that this case was not serious enough to warrant jailing her and risk “seriously damaging” her child.
As a result, Judge Nolan sentenced Jokhadze to four years in prison, which he then backdated to when he first entered custody, back in October of 2019.
On the other hand, Grdzelishili was given a three year sentence, which was suspended entirely on certain conditions.
Detective Sergeant Anthony Collins said that for the past few years, the Gardaí have been focused on tackling illegal immigration, with a particular focus on Georgian nationals. He added that the fake ID cards distributed were of a high quality and would pass cursory inspections, though they lacked some key security features.
At the end of 2019, then-Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that Ireland would not tolerate illegal immigration, and specifically identified Georgian and Albanian migrants falsely identifying as refugees to gaina access to the state.
Leo Varadkar says Georgia and Albania driving rise in asylum-seeker numbers https://t.co/LYnCZWaQrd
— Irish Examiner (@irishexaminer) November 3, 2019
Since then, the government has changed course on this issue dramatically, offering amnesty to illegal immigrants and providing them with a legal pathway to citizenship.
Legal recognition to be granted for nearly 20,000 ‘undocumented’ in Ireland https://t.co/HFUeTVuIqX
— Independent.ie (@Independent_ie) April 23, 2021