Brothers Jailed for Trafficking Men from Poland Over False Promises of Employment
Jan 24, 2017 11:39 AM EST
Two brothers have been sentenced to a six-year imprisonment each, for trafficking vulnerable men from Poland to work at Sports Direct's Shirebrook warehouse. They are charged under the Modern Slavery Act, at the Nottingham crown court.
Erwin Markowski, 38, and his brother Krystian, 35, hired a "watchman" in Poland to identify potentially vulnerable people who could be sent to the UK on the promise of employment. When the men arrived, the Markowski brothers opened bank accounts on their behalf and continually withdrew their income from working at Shirebrook.
An undercover Guardian investigation in 2015 exposed the poor working conditions at the factory, including body searches and underpaid wages. The workers were left with lesser than half that should have been given from weekly takehome pay, the court heard. Their passports were also taken away from them.
The brothers, who made £35,000 from the scheme, were caught during a raid on a home in the city, after one of the victims reported to the police about what was happening. The victim elaborated that he had been living in the same house with another 10 men, who were also working at Sports Direct.
Judge Steven Coupland said the men often promised a good life in the UK and convinced the workers that they would be assisted to receive a decent job, pay and decent accommodation. He added that the arrangement was nothing more than a planned and systematic scheme of human trafficking into the UK that exploits their hard work. The exploiters make large amounts of money and live in fairly good conditions while the workers who toil daily receive very little and lived in poorer conditions.
"We welcome the conviction of these two individuals, who were brought to justice after being reported to police by the Transline Agency and Sports Direct in February 2016," a spokesperson for Sports Direct said regarding the case. "It sends a clear message that we will not tolerate these kinds of behaviour."
The men were sent to Shirebrook via an outsourcing agency that supplied agency staff to Sports Direct, called Transline. Although the company claims to have no association with the two brothers, Britain's biggest trade union by the name Unite, called for a full scale investigation into the employment firm's behaviour and employment practices.
The Markowski brothers were charged of conspiracy for arranging workers' travel from a view of exploitation, an offence that underlines the Modern Slavery Act. They were additionally sentenced to two years and six months imprisonment for the conspiracy of committing fraudery by false representation, an offence that directly falls under the Fraud Act.