Thanks to a recruitment agency raising concerns, three people who exploited and abused a vulnerable worker in South Wales have been convicted of modern slavery offences.
The Latvian victim was forced to work to pay off an ever-increasing “debt” whilst living in fear of threats against his family and physical violence. At the same time his exploiters stole his wages, controlled his passport and bank card, stole parcels sent from family members, and threatened him with violence if he ever attempted to leave. In addition, the couple ridiculed and mocked him for being smelly and prevented him from having a daily shower.
The victim was been referred to the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) by a licensed recruitment agency after concerns were raised by staff at a poultry processing factory run by Avara Foods in Abergavenny where he had been working. He started work here just before Christmas in 2017, earning as much as £500 per week. However, speaking to the GLAA the victim said that the most money he ever received was £20 and that this only happened on three occasions.
Normunds Freibergs and his accomplices Jacobus Stankevicius and Ruta Stankeviciene have been convicted of modern slavery offences and will be sentenced later this year.
Freibergs had been posing on Facebook as someone who worked for a recruitment agency and could help foreign nationals find work in the UK. Freibergs placed the victim with husband-and-wife Stankevicius and Stankeviciene at their home in Newport, Wales where the exploitation continued. In interviews, the victim told the GLAA he was assaulted by both Stankevicius and Freibergs. On one such occasion, Freibergs hit him so hard that he was left unable to breathe properly.
Freibergs charged hundreds of pounds from him for arranging accommodation as well as for helping him to obtain a National Insurance number and taking him to register for work at a recruitment agency. His so-called debt grew to around £2,000, half of which was made up of interest, and his rent almost doubled to £150 per week, blamed by his exploiters on cost increases caused by Brexit. Stankevicius even kept a list on the fridge detailing his debt and what he had to pay, including rent of fridge space which he could never use.
This is a truly horrific case, thankfully the recruitment agency alerted the GLAA who were then able to intervene.
If you are concerned about potential modern slavery, call the helpline 08000 121 700, or fill out the online form.
Possible signs of modern slavery
Someone who is a victim of modern slavery might:
- appear to be under the control of someone else and reluctant to interact with others
- not have personal identification on them
- have few personal belongings, wear the same clothes every day or wear unsuitable clothes for work
- not be able to move around freely
- be reluctant to talk to strangers or the authorities
- appear frightened, withdrawn, or show signs of physical or psychological abuse
- dropped off and collected for work always in the same way, especially at unusual times, i.e. very early or late at night.