‘Smelly’ criminal links cost gangmasters’ licence

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

'Smelly' financial dealings resulted in a Lincolnshire couple losing their gangmasters' licence
'Smelly' financial dealings resulted in a Lincolnshire couple losing their gangmasters' licence

Related tags License Court Gangmasters licensing authority

A Lincolnshire couple have been stripped of their licence issued by the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) by an appeal judge, who ruled their financial dealings with a known criminal gangmaster were “smelly”.

Labour providers must have a GLA licence to work within the fresh produce supply chain. They must meet the GLA licensing standards, which cover health and safety, accommodation, pay, transport and training.

Natalija and Janis Vincukova, of Fenside Rd, Boston, were investigated, as part of Operation Endeavour, in connection to their operations in the vegetable production and flower picking sectors. Operation Endeavour was a large-scale multi-agency initiative to clampdown on worker exploitation carried out by the GLA, Cambridgeshire Constabulary and others.

Without a licence

Ivars Mezals, of Wisbech, was jailed for 18-months for operating as a gangmaster without a licence. He had subjected workers to forced labour in the Fenland area of Cambridgeshire, typically paying them less than £20 per week.

Subsequent enquiries connected workers staying in Mezals’ properties to NV Gangwork, based in Market Place, Boston. NV Gangwork and JN Gangwork, two businesses belonging to the Vincukovas, had their licences revoked in October 2014. This was on the grounds they were not “fit and proper”​ to hold them.

Both decisions were appealed along with another one to refuse a licence application for a separate company called NV Gangwork Ltd, which had been set up just prior to the revocations.

The Tribunals Court in Nottingham upheld all three GLA decisions last week (Thursday, 17 March). The companies were ordered by Employment Judge Peter Britton to cease trading by 24 March 2016.

In £20 pound notes

The court heard that repeated payments of between £2,000 and £3,000 had been made from the bank account of NV Gangwork to Mezals. These were described as weekly wages and repayments for a £25,000 loan, which he handed over to Mr Vincukova in £20 notes on a petrol station forecourt.

Judge Britton said: “I have a feeling this is all very smelly.

“This whole thing is so full of holes that it begs questions as to the nature of this relationship, which I could logically draw as being a corrupt one,”​ he said.

GLA head of licensing Charlotte Woodliffe said: “Our investigations into the Vincukovas uncovered a trail of deceit woven through a tale that never seemed to hang together.”

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