Two Norfolk-based men have been jailed for people trafficking and labour exploitation offences across two food manufacturing businesses, with victims earning as little as £20 over four months.
Lithuanians Konstantin Sasmurin, 34, and Linus Ratautas, 31, were both sentenced to three-and-a-half years at King’s Lynn Crown Court on 15 January, after pleading guilty to trafficking people into the UK for the purpose of labour exploitation and money laundering.
The court heard the pair’s two male victims - who were also Lithuanian - had been transported from the Baltic state to Great Yarmouth in a minibus in July 2013 after being promised work, accommodation and food.
After two weeks in a damp house with no beds, and left hungry for a number of days, the victims were taken to a vegetable processing factory in Suffolk for work. The identity of the factory has not been disclosed.
They were told to put false address details on job application forms and include Sasmurin’s contact details as their own. He also made them give his bank details to the company for wage payments to be made into his bank account.
The victims were led to believe their wages would be passed on to them but never received any payment for work, and after four weeks were moved to a poultry processing plant in Suffolk where they had to copy forms filled in by Ratautas, including his bank details.
The victims received a total sum of £20 for their work from July to October 2013. They were told they owed money for accommodation, transport, electricity and had not been paid much because they had to cover taxes and interest.
The abuse was discovered after enquiries by the Gangmasters Licensing Authority identified the two men as potential victims of trafficking. A joint investigation between Norfolk Constabulary, Suffolk Constabulary and the GLA was subsequently launched and resulted in Sasmurin and Ratautas being arrested on 2 April.
The victims were “satisfied and relieved these men who trafficked and exploited them have now been brought to justice”, said GLA senior investigating officer Dave Powell.
“Those two workers were extremely vulnerable - prime examples of the people the GLA exists to protect,” he added. “They were preyed upon and exploited by perpetrators who showed not a care for their welfare and were driven solely by financial greed.”
“This case is another example that modern day slavery is real and is happening around us,” said detective sergeant Mark Scott of Norfolk Constabulary. “It must not be tolerated,” he warned.
The GLA has been involved in a number of cases involving exploitation of labour across several food sectors over the past two years, however, this case had no links to other high-profile cases, a GLA spokesman said.