Three men from a Romanian organised crime group have been sentenced to 28 years’ imprisonment for trafficking victims into the UK in order to exploit them within the construction industry
The trio, who are all brothers, were sentenced at Blackfriars Crown Court, after being found guilty for modern slavery offences earlier this week following an eight-week trial.
Valentin Lupu and Grigore Lupu were both convicted of conspiracy to require another to perform forced or compulsory labour, conspiracy to arrange or facilitate the travel of another with a view to exploitation and conspiracy to convert criminal property. Both men were sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment.
The third brother, Alexandru Lupu was convicted of conspiracy to require another to perform forced or compulsory labour and conspiracy to convert criminal property. He was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment.
The court heard how between July 2015 and October 2018, the three men worked with other unknown gang members to traffic victims into the UK in order to exploit them within the construction industry.
In September 2017, a Joint Investigation Team made up of the Met’s Modern Slavery and Kidnap Unit, CPS, Romanian Police and Prosecutors, EuroPol and EuroJust was launched in order to investigate the criminal network.
The investigation established that the victims were commonly deceived into travelling on the promise of being paid £500 per 30 days. They had their identity cards confiscated and were forced to stay in the defendants’ overcrowded and poorly kept houses in East London.
The gang would exploit them by forging construction qualification documents and would put them to work at a number of building sites across London and the Home Counties. Violence, degrading living conditions and the constant manipulation of the derisory monies paid to victims were key levers to ensure the victims remained subservient.
Throughout the three years and two months’ of offending, the Lupu’s generated more than £1.2m by keeping the victim’s wages for themselves through the exploitation of dozens of victims.
On 16 October 2018, 15 search warrants were executed simultaneously between Romania and London in a closely co-ordinated effort by officers from the Met’s Modern Slavery and Kidnap Unit and officers from the Brigade for Combatting Organised Crime, Vrancea County, Romania in a bid to arrest offenders and recover assets.
A total of 33 potential victims of human trafficking (24 men, four women, and five children) were recovered from four of the London addresses and taken into safety.
The arrest phase marked the latter stages of the three-year international operation, codenamed ‘Operation Cardinas’.
The work was also supported by the Romanian Embassy in London as well as numerous charities and organisations supporting victims of modern slavery, including the Salvation Army and Medaille Trust.
The gang were charged with the offences between the 17 October 2018 and 20 February 2019.
Detective Inspector Rick Sewart, from the Met’s Modern Slavery and Kidnap Unit, said: “Modern slavery is, and will continue to be, a priority for the Met. We will continue to do everything within our power to identify and apprehend those intent on trafficking human beings, and exploiting them for their own gain.
“The key partnerships between the Met, the Romanian authorities, Europol, Eurojust and all of our other partners have been crucial to furthering this investigation into organised people trafficking and exploitation.
“We will continue this valuable work with our international and domestic partners to prevent continued exploitation and bring offenders to justice.”
All three men have also been issued with Slavery and Trafficking Prevention Orders (STPOs) and will be subject to asset recovery procedures targeting property in Romania, vehicles and cash assets accrued through their offending.