Two members of a highly organised gang that were at the heart of what is believed to be one of the UK’s largest human trafficking cases, were today sentenced to a total of six years in prison after pleading guilty to trafficking offences.
Lukasz Adamowicz and Jerzy Bala were arrested by the UK Border Agency’s Yorkshire Immigration Crime Team - comprised of warranted officers working with seconded police officers - in April 2010 following an investigation that had uncovered the pair at the heart of a European trafficking gang.
The UK arm of the gang, based in the Burngreave area of Sheffield, had sought to lure genuine Polish workers to the UK on the promise of paid work and a better life. In reality the workers would find themselves being forced to work up to 12 hours a day and then housed in a derelict property at night, unable to leave.
The scam worked by recruiting the workers via newspapers and the internet in Poland, and then asking them to pay money up front for accommodation and the necessary documentation they’d need to work in the UK – on average between £300-£500 each. On arrival they’d be picked up from the airport and then taken to the Halcar Tavern, Carwood Grove in Sheffield, where they had to share cramped and squalid conditions. The gang would then arrange for them to be taken to and from work but wouldn’t pay them at the end of the week. After a couple of weeks of unpaid work, the gang would then turn up with baseball bats and forcefully evict the victims under the threat of physical assault.
Through their investigations, the Immigration Crime Team was able to identify 26 victims but also uncovered information that has led them to believe that this may have involved around 130 Polish nationals over a period of two years.
UK Border Agency officers arrested Jerzy Bala on 19 April 2010 and Lukasz Adamowicz was arrested two days later on 21 April 2010.
Two other members of the gang that ran the operation from Poland have also been arrested. Both Polish nationals were apprehended here in the UK under European arrest warrants and have been extradited to Poland to stand trial at a date to be announced.
The two sentenced today in Sheffield pleaded guilty to conspiracy to traffic into the UK for exploitation and conspiracy to traffic within the UK
Det Sgt Alisdair Duncan, from the UK Border Agency’s Yorkshire Immigration Crime Team who led the case said:
“This is one of the worst cases of exploiting vulnerable workers I’ve seen in the UK. The sentencing today of this ruthless gang shows that the UK Border Agency’s Immigration Crime Teams are playing a vital role in tackling those involved in this type of criminality.
“We welcome the judge’s comments that those who exploit others will face a custodial sentence.”
The UK Border Agency’s Regional Director for the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber, Jeremy Oppenheim warned:
“This was a very serious case involving an unscrupulous gang. Trafficking can involve legal and illegal workers, exploiting the vulnerable as well as undermining legitimate businesses and the UK taxpayer.
“Let today’s sentences send a loud warning to those either thinking about or involved in organised crime: our Immigration Crime Teams will identify you, investigate you and bring you to justice.”
The Polish victims of this gang have now returned home.
Jerzy BALA (dob: 27/12/1969) – Sentenced to two years for one count of trafficking within the UK.
Lukasz ADAMOWICZ (dob: 3/6/1982) – Sentenced to four years for one count of trafficking into the UK and sentenced to three years for trafficking within the UK. Sentences to run concurrently.
NOTES TO EDITORS
1. The UK Border Agency was set up by the Home Office, establishing a single force to protect our borders, control migration for the benefit of the country, prevent border tax fraud, smuggling and immigration crime and make quick and fair decisions on asylum claims.
2. The North East, Yorkshire and the Humber Immigration Crime Team was set up in April 2008 and is one of several regional teams. These specialist teams of seconded police officers and warranted UK Border Agency staff have been set up to investigate crime, and bring those behind it to justice.
3. Photos of Halcar Tavern are available at:http://www.flickr.com/photos/49956354@N04/sets/72157625119361076/
4. Anyone with information about those involved in immigration crime or
suspicious of someone being trafficked should contact Crimestoppers on
0800 555 111. More information on trafficking visit:
Phone: For enquiries please contact the issuing dept