The corrupt boss of the recruiting firm David Handy, 54, was the only British member of the trafficking ring to be charged
Three key figures of the largest people-smuggling ring ever busted in the UK have been jailed for more than 15 years after forcing hundreds of Polish slaves to live and work in appalling conditions.
The corrupt boss of the recruiting firm David Handy, 54, and accomplices Mateus Natkowski, 29, and Lukasz Wywrinsk, 38, were members of a gang that forced Poles into slave labor while paying only 50p an hour.
The trio made millions smuggling 400 workers into Britain with false promises of wealth and a better life before living in misery.
They were forced to work for a pittance in filthy dormitories in the West Midlands and were beaten or threatened if they refused to work or complained.
One man was paid just £10 for working up to 13 hours a day for three weeks, while their exploiters kept the rest of their hard-earned wages.
The gang was convicted after three trials in the UK’s largest modern-day slavery prosecution and what is believed to be the largest of its kind in Europe.
Handy made nearly £1 million by supplying slave labor to parcel delivery company XDP sent to him by their Polish gangsters.
He worked with Lukasz Wywrinsk, 38, (left) and Mateus Natkowski, 29, (right) to force Poles into slave labor while paying them only 50p an hour
The boss of recruitment agency ASAP 24/7 Ltd has deducted some of his victims’ earnings before paying the wages directly into the bank accounts of their exploiters.
He also got backlashes from the traffickers for agreeing to find an internship for victims under their control.
Handy, from Stoke-on-Trent, paid off his mortgage and other debts after bringing in over half a million pounds and was also able to save around £400,000 in savings.
He was sentenced to seven years in prison at Birmingham Crown Court on Friday after being found guilty of conspiracy to force people into hard labour, conspiracy to trafficking people for the purpose of exploitation and money laundering.
Natkowski and Wywrinsk, who lived on James Turner Street, made famous by the Channel 4 documentary Benefits Street, were described as “trusted enforcers.”
They made £2 million while using violence and threats to intimidate victims and keep them clean with both verbal and physical abuse.
Wyrwinski, who was known as ‘Diable’ – Polish for Devil – known conspiracy to force people into forced labour, conspiracy to trade people for exploitation and money laundering.
Natkowski was found guilty of the same charges after a trial and they were both sentenced to more than four years in prison on Friday.
Shane Lloyd, 47, was also jailed along with the trio after he started laundering money for Handy to prevent his illegal winnings from being discovered.
The workers were forced to live in filthy dormitories in the West Midlands for a pittance and were beaten or threatened if they refused to work or complained
Nearly £140,000 was deposited into Lloyd’s bank account, which he then cashed and returned to Handy.
Lloyd, of Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffs., pleaded guilty to two counts of money laundering.
He was sentenced to 20 months in prison, a two-year suspension and a warrant to 200 hours of unpaid work.
The Polish mobsters behind the operation were sentenced to a total of 55 years in prison in July 2019 following the UK’s largest-ever investigation into slavery and human trafficking.
Detectives found their documents confiscated, given obsolete food and forced to search for dumped mattresses to sleep on.
Some buildings had no working toilets, heating, furniture or hot water and some victims told how to wash in canals.
Handy – the only British member of the conspiracy to be charged – was introduced to the gangsters in 2015 and later supplied workers to XDP in Sutton Coldfield.
One of the gang’s victims, Pawel, says he hopes to help authorities catch more smugglers in the future.
Pawel said: ‘All I remember is the journey across the English Channel, then I don’t remember anything…
‘I never want to go back to those living conditions, they were an insult to human dignity.
“I wouldn’t want anyone to ever experience what I’ve done.
“What I’ve been through in the past five years is over, I don’t want to dwell on it. I just want to surround myself with love and goodness.’
West Midlands Police Chief Inspector Nick Dale said: ‘Handy was an integral part of the crime gang, finding work for the victims and maximizing their exploitation.
The gang was convicted after three trials in the UK’s largest modern-day slavery prosecution. Pictured is one of the filthy bedsits
‘He made far more money than any legitimate employment agent could have – and there was evidence that the gang also gave him £20 for every victim he employed.
Handy made a considerable amount of money while the victims – aged 17 to a man in his 60s – were effectively working for only 50 pence an hour.
“He also went to great lengths to protect himself, creating crappy contracts and filming himself educating workers about their rights, when in reality he was instrumental in taking those rights away.”
An investigation was launched in 2015 when two victims boldly broke away from their captors and exposed violations to the slavery charity Hope for Justice.
Paul McAnulty, UK & Europe Program Director at Hope for Justice, said: ‘People smugglers take advantage of the misery and despair of others by exploiting vulnerabilities in good people.
“This exploitation is often perpetuated by a network of others who choose to look the other way, fail to fulfill their responsibilities or, worse, are actively complicit in these crimes.
“Employers, retailers, workers, landlords, banks, consumers, we all have a duty of care – we must look together to shed light on the abhorrent and reprehensible crime of modern slavery.
Hope for Justice is proud of our role in working with West Midlands Police and partners to end the activities of this particular gang, and in helping survivors to freedom and sustaining them in the direction of their desired future.’
Neil Fielding, CPS West Midlands Specialized Prosecutor, said: ‘The extent to which this gang has heartlessly exploited their victims and deprived them of basic human rights is truly appalling.
“The extent of the suffering they have caused to large numbers, especially vulnerable people, is hard to comprehend.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the many witnesses who testified during this series of trials for their courage to come forward and continue to support the case.
“I also want to thank the Polish authorities for their help in this matter.”