Seven year jail sentence handed to illegal gangmaster

A gangmaster that operated without licence and exploited “vulnerable” Lithuanians by sending them to work in poultry processing factories and farms, has been jailed for seven years.

Audrius Morkunas, a Lithuanian national of Grove Road, Melton Constable, Norfolk, is the first person to receive a custodial sentence for an offence under the gangmaster licensing act, following a four year investigation.

The Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) was established in the wake of the Morcambe Bay cockle picking disaster, when 23 Chinese workers drowned on the sands.

Those employing gangs of workers must now be regulated and hold the proper licence.

Mr Morkunas also admitted charges of possessing a GLA licence belonging to another person, conspiring to money laundering, and was found guilty of possession of an offensive weapon and assault causing actual bodily harm. All sentences for his offences will run concurrently.

The assault charge resulted from him beating a worker with an iron bar – a crime captured on CCTV.

GLA chief executive Paul Broadbent said: “This man exploited vulnerable workers to despicable levels over a prolonged period. That exploitation was deliberate and based on fear, intimidation and greed.”

The GLA said Mr Morkunas charged £400 to find “vulnerable” Lithuanians work, £50 a week rent in “substandard accommodation” and £5 a day for transport that he provided.

It adds that he used violence to control workers, controlled their bank accounts and illegally held their passports and identity documents. Workers “inevitably built up a ‘debt’ to Morkunas that he used to exploit and control them”.

According to the GLA, inspectors found evidence that Mr Morkanus had employed “hundreds” of workers over the years, but it said many had now found direct employment at the factories and farms they had previously worked in.

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