Modern slavery: Three brothers from Ilford jailed for role in Romanian organised crime gang
- Credit: Archant
Three brothers from a Romanian organised crime group have been jailed for modern slavery and Proceeds of Crime Act offences.
The men, who all live in Ilford, were sentenced at Blackfriars Crown Court today, Friday, June 21, after being found guilty earlier this week following an eight week trial.
Valentin Lupu, who is 25, of Perth Road, and 39-year-old Grigore Lupu, of Wellesley Road, were both 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. They were each jailed for 10 years.
Older brother Alexandru, 43, of Neville Road, was convicted of conspiracy to require another to perform forced or compulsory labour and conspiracy to convert criminal property. He was jailed for eight years.
The court heard how between July 2015 and October 2018, the brothers 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 identify cards confiscated and were forced to stay in the defendants' overcrowded and poorly kept houses in east London.
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The gang would exploit them by forging construction qualification documents and putting 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 £1.2million by keeping the victim's wages for themselves through the exploitation of dozens of victims.
On Tuesday, October 16, 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 October 17, 2018 and February 20 this year.
Following the sentencing, Det Insp 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.