Corrupt recruitment firm boss David Handy, 54, was the only British member of the human trafficking gang to be charged
Three kingpins of the largest human trafficking 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.
Corrupt recruitment firm boss David Handy, 54, and accomplices Mateus Natkowski, 29, and Lukasz Wywrinsk, 38, were members of a gang who forced Poles into slave labour while paying them just 50p an hour.
The trio made millions trafficking 400 workers into Britain with false promises of wealth and a better life before being made to live in squalor.
They were forced to reside in dirty bedsits across the West Midlands while working for a pittance 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 were convicted following three trials in the UK’s largest ever modern slavery prosecution and what is believed to be the biggest of its type in Europe.
Handy made almost £1 million supplying slave labour to parcels firm XDP sent to him by their Polish gang masters.
He worked with Lukasz Wywrinsk, 38, (left) and Mateus Natkowski, 29, (right) to force Poles into slave labour while paying them just 50p an hour
The boss of recruitment firm ASAP 24/7 Ltd skimmed off some of his victims’ earnings before paying wages directly into their exploiters’ bank accounts.
He also received back-handers from the traffickers for agreeing to find work placements for victims who were under their control.
Handy, of Stoke-on-Trent, paid off his mortgage and other debts after raking in over half a million pounds and was also able to amass savings of around £400,000.
He was jailed for seven years at Birmingham Crown Court on Friday after being found guilty of conspiracy to force people into forced labour, conspiracy to traffic 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 in line with both verbal and physical abuse.
Wyrwinski, who was known as ‘Diable’ – Polish for Devil – admitted conspiracy to force people into forced labour, conspiracy to traffic people for the purpose of exploitation and money laundering.
Natkowski was found guilty of the same charges following a trial and they were both jailed for more than four years on Friday.
Shane Lloyd, 47, was also imprisoned alongside the trio after he began to launder money for Handy in a bid to prevent his illicit gains from being discovered.
The workers were forced to reside in dirty bedsits across the West Midlands while working for a pittance and were beaten or threatened if they refused to work or complained
Nearly £140,000 was paid into Lloyd’s bank account, which he then cashed and passed back to Handy.
Lloyd, of Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffs., pleaded guilty to two counts of money laundering.
He was handed a 20 month jail sentence, suspended for two years, and ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work.
The Polish gang masters behind the operation were jailed for a total of 55 years in July 2019 following the biggest slavery and trafficking investigation ever in the UK.
Detectives found victims had their documents seized, fed out-of-date food and forced to scavenge for dumped mattresses to sleep on.
At some properties there were no working toilets, heating, furniture or hot water and some victims told how they were forced to wash in canals.
Handy – the only British member of the conspiracy to be charged – was introduced to the gang masters in 2015 and later supplied workers to XDP in Sutton Coldfield.
One of the the gang’s victims, Pawel, says he hopes to help authorities catch more traffickers in the future.
Pawel said: ‘All I remember is the journey across the English Channel, after that I don’t remember anything…
‘I don’t ever 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 did.
‘What I went through in the past five years is past me, I don’t want to dwell on it. I just want to surround myself with love and good.’
Detective Chief Inspector Nick Dale, of West Midlands Police, said: ‘Handy was an integral part of the crime gang, finding work for the victims and maximising their exploitation.
The gang were convicted following three trials in the UK’s largest ever modern slavery prosecution. Pictured is one of the filthy bedsits
‘He made far more money than any legitimate employment agent would have been able to – and there was evidence the gang also gave him £20 for each victim he employed.
‘Handy made a significant amount of money while the victims – aged from 17 to a man in his 60s – effectively worked for just 50 pence an hour.
‘He also went to considerable effort to protect himself, creating worthless contracts and filming himself informing workers of their rights, when in reality he was instrumental in taking away those rights.’
An investigation was launched in 2015 when two victims bravely broke free from their captors and disclosed offences to slavery charity Hope for Justice.
Paul McAnulty, UK & Europe Programme Director at Hope for Justice, said: ‘Human traffickers profit from the misery and desperation of others, exploiting vulnerabilities in good people.
‘This exploitation is often perpetuated by a network of others who choose to look the other way, fail to live up to their responsibilities or, worse, are actively complicit in these crimes.
‘Employers, retailers, labour providers, landlords, banks, consumers, all of us owe a duty of care – we must collectively look to shine a light on the abhorrent and reprehensible crime of modern slavery.
‘Hope for Justice is proud of our role in working alongside West Midlands Police and partners to bring an end to this particular gang’s activities, and in assisting the survivors to freedom and supporting them towards their preferred futures.’
Neil Fielding, specialist prosecutor from CPS West Midlands, said: ‘The extent to which this gang callously exploited and deprived their victims of basic human rights is truly appalling.
‘The scale of the suffering they inflicted on huge numbers of mainly vulnerable people is difficult to comprehend.
‘I would like to take the opportunity to thank the many witnesses who gave evidence in this series of trials for their bravery in coming forwards and for continuing to support the case.
‘I would also like to thank the Polish authorities for their assistance in this case.’