Man arrested for labour exploitation
The investigation focussed on victims living in the Medway Towns.
Supported by the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA), the UK Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC), HMRC, Red Cross and the Department for Work and Pensions, officers from Kent Police carried out warrants in the early hours of this morning at addresses in Windsor Road and Richmond Road, Gillingham.
A 35 year old man from Gillingham was arrested on suspicion of people trafficking and money laundering and is currently in police custody.
The action was taken following an extensive multi-agency investigation after allegations were made workers were being forced to live in squalid conditions and threatened with violence if they did not comply with their supervisor’s instructions. The victims were working in a number of different industries including the food industry.
While the arrests were being made, officers located workers and other potential victims. With the help of interpreters at least seven people were taken to a reception centre that had been set up by a number of different agencies to offer the victims support.
The action was coordinated by Detective Sergeant Susan Marsden of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, who said: “Today’s arrests come following an investigation by Kent Police and our partner agencies into the illegal human trafficking trade in Medway.
“Extensive intelligence work and reports from the community suggests Slovakian migrants are being lured into the country with offers of work, accommodation and prosperity. However, the reality is they are being forced into living in squalid conditions and having their lives controlled by those that had promised so much and are now profiting from their labour.
“Typically our victims are being asked to work two jobs, often up to 60 hours a week, and receiving a nominal wage of £10-£15 with the supervisors pocketing the rest of the money.
“Kent Police will continue to crack down on any reports of exploitation and use a range of tactics and tools at our disposal to investigate those claims to ensure those that live in our community can live and work with a sense of freedom.”
The GLA’s Chief Executive, Paul Broadbent, said: “Our investigation leads us to believe there were people in these addresses whose lives were controlled by others – being forced to work and receiving a fraction of the wages they actually earned.
“Sadly, we are uncovering more and more cases of this type across the UK. The GLA will continue to work to protect vulnerable people, prevent workers being exploited and tackle those who take advantage by operating outside the law. We will now seek to liaise with any workers involved to offer our support in finding them alternative accommodation and jobs, where they will receive every penny they are due.
& lsquo;If anyone suspects they know of other instances of forced labour where workers are being controlled, I would ask them to contact the GLA’s free reporting line on 0800 432 0804.”
The day’s action comes after four men were arrested following a series of warrants on 8 August this year.
A 27 year old man was arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to supply and fraud, a 34 year old man was arrested on suspicion of people trafficking offences and a 57 year old man was arrested on suspicion of fraud. The three men, all from Chatham, have been bailed to 4 March 2014 pending further enquiries.
A fourth man, a 35 year from Gillingham who arrived in police custody on 22 August, was arrested on suspicion of people trafficking offences and has been bailed to the same date.