Construction slavery gang jailed for 28 years
Valentin, Grigore, and Alexandru Lupu
Three men from a Romanian organised crime group have been jailed for a total of 28 years for modern slavery and Proceeds of Crime Act offences.
The trio – all brothers – worked with other gang members to traffic victims into the UK, forced them to stay in overcrowded homes and put them to work on sites across London and the home counties using forged documents.
Throughout the three years and two months of offending, the brothers generated more than £1.2 million by keeping the dozens of victims’ wages for themselves.
They were sentenced on Friday 21 June, having been found guilty following an eight-week trial.
Valentin Lupu, 25, of Perth Road, Ilford and Grigore Lupu, 39, of Wellesley Road, Ilford, were each sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment. Their brother Alexandru Lupu, 43, of Neville Road, Ilford was handed an eight-year sentence.
Conditions at the Wellesley Road property where some of the victims were forced to stay
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 Metrpolitan Police's Modern Slavery and Kidnap Unit, Crown Prosecution Service, Romanian police and prosecutors, EuroPol and EuroJust was launched in order to investigate the criminal network.
The investigation found that the victims were deceived into travelling to the UK 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.
Violence, poor living conditions and threats regarding the money they were owed were key tools the gang used to ensure the victims remained subservient, police said.
On Tuesday, 16 October 2018, 15 search warrants were executed simultaneously between Romania and London in a operation by officers from the Metropolitan Police’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.