Gangmaster jailed for five years for modern slavery

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

Mihai Varga (pictured) has been jailed for five year for modern day slavery offences
Mihai Varga (pictured) has been jailed for five year for modern day slavery offences

Related tags Modern slavery Police Human trafficking Minimum wage

A gangmaster has been jailed for five years for modern slavery offences, after paying workers brought over from eastern Europe less than £2 an hour.

Mihai Varga transported the men to work 12-hour shifts at a food processing factory in Staffordshire. He kept the majority of their wages for himself and handed over just £20 for a day’s work.

The five Romanian victims, men aged between 26 and 50, were also kept in cramped conditions in a room at his home in Ashwin Road, Handsworth and forced to share mattresses.

Varga was arrested in September last year following a joint investigation by the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA), West Midlands Police and the National Crime Agency.

While he initially denied exploiting the men, Varga later changed his plea during a trial at Birmingham Crown Court.

Human trafficking

Varga was convicted this week (Wednesday, February 14) for human trafficking and fraud offences and received a five-year jail term.

GLAA investigating officer Michael Heyes said the ongoing support before, during and after the investigation by the organisation’s officers and the police had ensured justice had been done for the victims.

“Many victims aren’t aware that the majority of the wage they’re earning is going to their exploiter, or that they are entitled to holiday pay, sick pay or days off to rest,”​ said Heyes.

“People like Varga exploit those under their control mercilessly. The GLAA will continue to work closely with partners to ensure these people don’t go unpunished and that workers get what they’re entitled to.”

Less than the minimum wage

Detective constable Nick McCullogh from the West Midlands Police Criminal Investigation Department said the workers were unaware that they were earning much less than the minimum wage of £7 an hour.

He added: “We believe Varga had been exploiting workers from Eastern Europe over several years and investigations to identify other victims is ongoing.

“This is the 21st century and we are committed to tackling people trafficking and modern slavery. We are continually looking to raise awareness of what is still a hidden crime and need the help of the public if they suspect someone of being an unlicensed gangmaster.”

Meanwhile, last week, a couple were arrested on suspicion of modern slavery and gangmaster offences,​ after bringing people into the UK to work at a food factory.

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