UK’s largest ever modern slavery gang jailed

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Members of a Polish human traffickers gang, (top L-R) Ignacy Brzezinski, Jan Sadowski, Julianna Chodakowicz, Justyna Parczewska. (Bottom L-R_ Marek Brzezinski, Natalia Zmuda, Wojciech Nowakowski, Marek Chowaniec. Photograph: West Midlands police/EPA

The largest-ever modern slavery ring uncovered in the UK has been broken up after a three-year investigation into its activities. Some of its 400 victims worked for as little as 50p a day.

A human trafficking ring which made £2m by exploiting hundreds of vulnerable victims has been dismantled following the UK’s largest modern slavery investigation.

More than 400 people – many of them homeless, ex-prisoners or alcoholics – were forced to work for almost nothing after being lured to the west midlands by a well-organised Polish gang

The ringleaders told victims they would earn good money in the UK but instead placed them in cramped, rat-infested accommodation and forced them to work on farms, rubbish recycling centres and poultry factories.

Eight gang members –all Polish nationals who police say were part of two Polish crime families – have been jailed for modern slavery offences and money laundering, it can now be reported, after the second of two trials ended.

A judge said the five men and three women were motivated by greed to exploited their destitute victims and had no “care or regard for the rights of the individuals affected.”

“The scale of the operation was truly staggering, with millions of pounds netted by the crime group as a result of their callous and systematic exploitation of vulnerable members of the Polish community, said Mark Paul, head of the Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS) west midlands complex casework unit.

“Any lingering complacency after the 2007 bicentenary celebrations of the abolition of the English Slave Trade Act was misplaced,” Judge Mary Stacey told Birmingham crown court.

“The hard truth is that the practice continues, here in the UK, often hiding in plain sight.”

Reporting restrictions were lifted on Friday after the end of two trials of five men and three women, all originally from Poland, who have all now been convicted of modern slavery offences and money laundering.

Their conspiracy – which ran from June 2012 until October 2017 – was described by Judge Stacey as the “most ambitious, extensive and prolific” modern day slavery network ever uncovered in Britain. Investigators believe it is the largest such criminal prosecution of its type in Europe to date.

Their labour earned millions for members of a criminal gang led by a Polish criminal family, which preyed on the homeless, ex-prisoners and alcoholics from Poland. Gang members were jailed on Friday.

The gang tricked and then trafficked vulnerable men and women – ranging in age from 17 to over 60 – to Britain with the promise of gainful employment but instead housed them in squalor and used them as what a judge described as “commodities”.

Working on farms, rubbish recycling centres and poultry factories in the Midlands, they were made to live in cramped, rat-infested accommodation and reduced to going to soup kitchens and food banks to get enough to eat.

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