Two jailed in Norfolk after joint GLA and police enquiry
15th January 2016
Two men have been jailed for a total of seven years for their part in trafficking two men from Lithuania and forcing them to work whilst living in poor conditions.
Konstantin Sasmurin, aged 34 and Linus Ratautas, aged 31, both Lithuanian nationals living at an address in Yarmouth Road, Caister-on-Sea, were sentenced at Kings Lynn Crown Court today (Friday 15 January 2016).
They each received 3 years and 6 months in prison after pleading guilty on Wednesday to trafficking people into the UK for the purposes of labour exploitation plus money laundering offences. They were both also issued a Slavery and Trafficking Prevention Order.
The court heard how their two male victims, both aged 29, were brought to Great Yarmouth from Lithuania in a mini bus in July 2013 after being promised work, accommodation and food. This was arranged by Sasmurin with his contacts in Lithuania.
On arrival to Great Yarmouth they were met by Sasmurin and Ratautas and taken to an address in Crittens Road, Cobholm. The accommodation was in very poor condition with mould on the walls and no beds.
The victims were given small amounts of food each week and would often run out causing them to go hungry for a number of days. After two weeks, Sasmurin and Ratautas took the victims to a food processing factory in Suffolk for work.
The victims were told to put false address details on the application forms and to include Sasmurin’s contact details as their own. He also made them give his bank details to the company for wage payments to be made into his bank account. The victims were led to believe their wages would be passed on to them but they never received any payment for work.
They worked long hours at the factory but after four weeks work stopped and they were then taken to a different factory in Suffolk to work.
Again the victims had to copy forms filled in by Ratautas, including Ratautas’s bank details. The victims received a total sum of £20 for all their work between July and October 2013. They were told they owed money for accommodation, transport, electricity and that they were not paid much because they also had to cover taxes and interest.
The two men were discovered during enquiries by the Gangmasters Licensing Authority identified them as potential victims of trafficking and referred them both into the National Referral Mechanism.
When rescued they were wearing the same clothes they had worn for the previous four months. The victims had been threatened not to tell anyone about their situation and feared being ‘fed to the crabs’.
A joint investigation between Norfolk Constabulary, Suffolk Constabulary and the GLA was launched and resulted in Sasmurin and Ratautas being arrested on Wednesday 2nd April 2014. Detective Sergeant Mark Scott from Norfolk Constabulary said: "I am pleased with today’s sentence.
I would like to commend the bravery of the victims in this case who had the courage to alert the authorities to what was happening to them. "This case is another example that modern day slavery is real and is happening around us. It must not be tolerated. "Norfolk Constabulary will continue to work with partner agencies such as the Gangmasters Licensing Authority to stop the exploitation of vulnerable people and to not only identify potential victims of Human Trafficking but also those criminals associated with these atrocious crimes.”
GLA Senior Investigating Officer Dave Powell said: "The GLA is delighted that months of hard work, dedication and tenacious investigation have secured the right result in this case. Officers from all parties involved came together to create a formidable team and what is perhaps even more important for those involved is the victims in this case are satisfied and relieved these men who trafficked and exploited them have now been brought to justice.
"Those two workers were extremely vulnerable – prime examples of the people the GLA exists to protect. They were preyed upon and exploited by perpetrators who showed not a care for their welfare and were driven solely by financial greed.”
Note to editors:
Press release issued by GLA Communications and Information Officer Paul Fearn. For more information from the GLA contact 0115 959 7069 or email email@example.com.
Notes to editors
1. The GLA operates throughout the UK and is a Non-Departmental Public Body.
2. It was formed in 2005 in the wake of the Morecambe Bay cockle picking disaster when 23 Chinese workers drowned on the sands.
3. The GLA licences companies that supply labour (gangmasters) for agriculture, horticulture, shellfish gathering as well as all associated processing and packaging.
4. Its main strategic priorities are to prevent worker exploitation, protect vulnerable people and tackle unlicensed and criminal activity.
5. Under the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act (2004), it is illegal both to operate as, or enter into an agreement with, an unlicensed gangmaster.