Slave labour ‘unwittingly’ used across South East

At least 33 companies ‘unwittingly’ paid an organised crime gang that placed hundreds of Romanian victims onto construction sites.
London Westminster Houses of Parliament

At least 33 companies ‘unwittingly’ paid an organised crime gang that placed hundreds of Romanian victims onto construction sites.

A report by the Anti-Slavery Commissioner revealed that a criminal gang placed up to 500 victims on building sites in London and the South East between 2009 and 2018.

The analysis was based on interviews across the supply chain and relied on an investigation by the Metropolitan Police, whose investigators said that the number of businesses uncovered was “only a fraction” of the total.

The companies that paid into the bank accounts of the Lupus gang included contractors, agencies and payroll umbrella firms. The cumulative transactions for each business ranged from £100s to £100,000s.

It is estimated that between 300 and 500 victims were placed on construction and demolition sites during the 10-year period. The gang is thought to have made about £2.4m from the slave-labour ring, while their victims received as little as £18 per day and were forced to live in “cockroach and rat-infested properties owned or managed by the criminal network”.

The gang found various ways to skirt around security on construction sites. The victims were usually placed in roles such as cleaning or general labour jobs, since these were less scrutinised than skilled trades. However, the gang also worked alongside a corrupt skills-testing facility, which helped them provide proof that individuals working on construction sites have the appropriate training fraudulently, in order to place slave-labour victims in skilled roles.

The police also found that fake health and safety accreditation and qualifications were submitted and accepted by construction employers. Often, this meant that a worker was placed in a dangerous job without being trained to do it.

The flexibility of labour contracts was also misused, by which a replacement worker was sent to a job, and workers were therefore easily moved around.

Of the 33 firms that were identified, one was a subcontractor that learned that 12 workers were potential victims, but continued to keep them on site in order to protect them from the gang and assist the police.

Related Posts