The United Kingdom’s largest slavery network, which forced more than 400 people to work for scraps while their criminal owners profited at their expense, has been finally been convicted, per West Midlands Police’s Twitter account.
The post states that the West Midlands Police have successfully convicted a Polish gang who lured up to 400 people from their homeland and forced them to work in the county.
They were transported to the U.K. by bus. Upon arrival, they were housed in squalid homes throughout West Midlands County and forced to share a room with up to four people at a time. When payday arrived, the victims’ rightful earnings were removed from their bank accounts and kept by their masters.
One of the gang members, Ignacy Brzezinski, will be sentenced later today. According to West Midlands Police, the man drove an expensive Bentley and lived a lavish lifestyle, while the victims he helped enslave were forced to work for a pittance in recycling centers and on farms.
Eight offenders, who police say have links to two Polish crime families, have already been convicted of slavery, trafficking, and money-laundering offenses during two trials. Additionally, five have been jailed, with sentences ranging from four years to 11 years. Like Brzezinski, other members of the network are awaiting their respective sentences.
In addition to controlling their victims’ bank accounts, the gang also made their captors claim state benefits, which they subsequently kept for themselves.
The West Midlands Police also highlighted the extent of the awful living conditions which the victims had to endure.
“Victims were forced to live in desperate conditions. Some scavenged mattress from the streets to sleep on; others were forced to wash in canals. There was no heating. The gang controlled their bank accounts, stole their wages and made £2,000,000 from their suffering.”
#SLAVERY: We've secured the convictions of a Polish gang who lured up to 400 people from their homeland and forced them to work in the West Midlands. Some victims were paid just 50p per hour. It's the biggest ever slavery case in the UK. More to follow... pic.twitter.com/MfVn5sAk4n— West Midlands Police (@WMPolice) July 5, 2019
British media outlet ITV reports that one worker was given coffee and chicken as payment for doing a decorating job in a house. Elsewhere, another man had to wash in an outdoor canal because he had no other access to water. Furthermore, one victim claimed that living in the streets would have been better than what they faced.
“I would say some homeless people here in the UK live better than I lived after I arrived over here.”
Awareness of the slave network was brought to light when two of its victims fled and reported their ordeals to the charity Hope For Justice.
Jurors heard the accounts of more than 90 victims. However, it is believed that at least 350 more former captives weren’t present at the trial because they either returned to Poland, could not be tracked down, or were too scared to come forward.