Human trafficker jailed for four years

15/02/2016

A 39-year-old man was sentenced to four years imprisonment at Hereford Crown Court on Friday 12 February 2016, after he pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to four counts of people trafficking and three counts of slavery.

In November 2014, Ramunas Vaznys recruited two of his victims in Lithuania, promising them well paid employment and good accommodation in the United Kingdom. In return for this, he said he would charge them a fee of £20 per week and repayment of their transportation costs.

When his victims arrived in the UK neither the guaranteed work nor the comfortable accommodation existed: instead they stayed in a cramped and crowded caravan and were required to pay Vaznys, regardless of whether they had work or not. The site had little access to transport except that provided by Vaznys for which his victims also had to pay.

The victims were then told by Vaznys they had to pay him £100 per week for six months and then take out a bank loan of for £2,000-£3,000 'until they were free'.

The victims could not speak English, were entirely dependent upon Vaznys for food and accommodation and each day their debt to Vaznys mounted.

In January 2015 the defendant brought two further victims from Lithuania to the UK. The story was exactly the same.

Of the four victims who Vaznys trafficked into the UK intending to exploit, those who found employment had their wages paid into bank accounts - which Vaznys helped to set up. He took the victim's bank card when they arrived and then made a series of withdrawals from his victim's accounts as he saw fit.

When anyone challenged his behaviour, Vaznys threatened them. On one occasion he physically beat one of the complainants and when this did not suffice, several of them were put on a bus back to Lithuania.

In March 2015, West Mercia Police received a tip off about an illegal recruitment agency. The police arrested Vaznys who had by then moved to Ipswich. Vaznys today pleaded guilty to trafficking each of his four victims with a view to exploiting them, keeping two of them in servitude and requiring a third to perform forced or compulsory labour.

The defendant was sentenced on Friday 12 February to four years imprisonment and also issued with a Slavery and Trafficking Prevention Order with extra-territorial jurisdiction, which prohibits the defendant from going to a town in Lithuania from which he recruited his victims. The judge also recommended his deportation.

Neil Fielding, Specialist Prosecutor from the West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service's Complex Casework Unit said: "Human trafficking and modern day slavery has no place in our society and the Crown Prosecution Service is working with our partner agencies as well as community groups to tackle this insidious criminal activity.

"Ramunas Vaznys sought to exploit his victims' vulnerable position, isolated as they were by location and language in a foreign and unfamiliar environment, for his own personal gain.

"He made false promises to entice his victims to travel from Lithuania to the UK. Once they arrived he would get them to hand over most of their weekly wages as well as trying to get them to take out large bank loans to pay for his made up fees and expenses.

"We hope that this conviction sends out a strong and clear message to anyone who is considering exploiting foreign workers in the UK that such actions are illegal and once caught, you will be prosecuted robustly.

"We are grateful to the victims for the trust they placed in the police and CPS and for being prepared to return to the UK to give evidence in support of this prosecution."