Veg gangmaster pair jailed for illegal £1.6M business

By Michael Stones

- Last updated on GMT

The illegal veg gangmasters built a £1.6M business ‘on a lie’
The illegal veg gangmasters built a £1.6M business ‘on a lie’

Related tags Gangmasters licensing authority

A Lithuanian couple who built an illegal £1.6M gangmaster business “based on fraud, lies and deception” – involving the supply of labour for field scale vegetable crops – has been jailed.

Illegal immigrants Stasys Skarbalius and wife Virinija Skarbaliene received jail sentences at Sheffield Crown Court, after using stolen identification to develop their gangmaster business and property empire.

The couple falsely obtained a licence from the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) to supply workers into the fresh produce sector – mainly to harvest vegetable crops near Doncaster, south Yorkshire.

The licence was renewed four times until 2011, when the gangmaster firm, known as CV Staff Services, had reached an annual turnover of more than £1.6M.

Suspicions about the identity of the licence holder were aroused when GLA inspectors visited the business and found some workers referred to their boss as ‘Stasys’, while others called him ‘Charles’.

In a landmark conviction – described by the judge as “the first of its type in the UK”​ – Skarbalius was handed a two-and-a-half year sentence and his wife received three years.

Both were also convicted of trying to falsely secure mortgages, while Skarbaliene was convicted of perverting the course of justice.

Landmark conviction

The couple were convicted under a previously unused section of the Gangmasters Licensing Act (GLA) relating to possession of a document known to be obtained improperly, with the intention of leading people to believe they were properly licensed.

‘Fraud, lies and deception’

“... the defendants created a successful business and property portfolio, as well as a very comfortable life for themselves and their family, based entirely on fraud, lies and deception.”

  • Dave Powell, GLA

Sentencing the pair, Judge Simon Lawler said: “The sentence is not just a reflection of the public view that serious dishonesty resulting in financial gain should be discouraged but it also sends a clear and unequivocal message that dishonesty in this important area will not be tolerated.

“The GLA relies substantially on honesty in applications. A licence is not a right, it has to be earned and those granted them become responsible for vulnerable people who are often ripe for exploitation.”

The sentences would have been more severe if there had been evidence of human trafficking or mistreatment of workers, he added.

Human trafficking

Both defendants, of Crown Gardens, Scotter, Lincolnshire, were also disqualified from being company directors for seven years.

The court heard Skarbalius, aged 60, had assumed a fake identity using a stolen passport to set up CV Staff Services Ltd and secure a GLA licence, opened bank accounts and owned and transferred properties into the false name while falsely obtaining mortgage advances.

The couple were arrested in March 2013 after a joint investigation by the GLA and the East Midlands Regional Asset Recovery Team.

GLA senior investigating officer Dave Powell said: “The first of the GLA’s licensing standards states that a person named on a licence must be ‘fit and proper’.

“In this case, however, the defendants created a successful business and property portfolio as well as a very comfortable life for themselves and their family based entirely on fraud, lies and deception.”

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