Construction slave gang sent to prison
Three brothers living in Ilford, East London, and operating as part of what the Metropolitan Police describe as a Romanian organised crime group have been sentenced to a total of 28 years in prison for modern slavery on building sites.
The three men were given their jail sentences at Blackfriars Crown Court on Friday (21 June) after being found guilty earlier in the week following an eight week trial.
They were convicted and sentenced as follows:
- Valentin Lupu, 25, of Perth Road, Ilford, was convicted of conspiracy to require another to perform forced or compulsory labour, conspiracy to arrange or facilitate travel of another with a view to exploitation and conspiracy to convert criminal property. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
- Grigore Lupu, 39, of Wellesley Road, Ilford, was convicted of conspiracy to require another to perform forced or compulsory labour, conspiracy to arrange or facilitate travel of another with a view to exploitation and conspiracy to convert criminal property. He was sentenced to 10 years.
- Alexandru Lupu, 43, of Neville Road, Ilford, 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.
All three men have also been issued with Slavery & Trafficking Prevention Orders (STPOs) and will be subject to asset recovery procedures targeting property in Romania, vehicles and cash assets accrued through their offending.
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 in the construction industry.
In September 2017, a Joint Investigation Team launched an investigation into the criminal network. The joint team comprised the Met’s Modern Slavery & Kidnap Unit, the Criminal Prosecution Service (CPS), Romanian Police and Prosecutors, EuroPol and EuroJust.
The investigation established that the victims were commonly deceived into travelling on the promise of being paid £500 for every 30 days worked. But once they arrived in England they had their identify cards taken from them by the men and were forced to stay in the defendants’ overcrowded and poorly kept houses in East London.
The gang forged construction qualification documents for their victims and put them to work at 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.
During three years and two months of offending, the Lupus brothers generated more than £1.2million by keeping the earnings from dozens of victims for themselves.
On Tuesday, 16 October 2018, 15 search warrants were executed simultaneously in Romania and London in a closely co-ordinated effort by officers from the Met’s Modern Slavery & Kidnap Unit and officers from the Brigade for Combatting Organised Crime, Vrancea County, in Romania in a bid to arrest offenders and recover assets.
There were 33 potential victims of human trafficking (24 men, four women, and five children) recovered from four 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 members were charged with offences committed between 17 October 2018 and 20 February 2019.
Detective Inspector Rick Sewart from the Met's Modern Slavery & Kidnap Unit said after the conviction: “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.”