Members of the UK’s largest-evcr modern slavery ring were arrested last week after forcing 400 victims to work for as little as 50p a day, earning the organised crime group around £2 million.

A three-year police investigation uncovered the criminal gang led by the Polish Brzezinski family who preyed on vulnerable people from Poland.

The West Midlands-based ring lured and then trafficked homeless people, alcoholics and ex-offenders to the UK with the promise of a new life, but instead housed them in squalor, and used them as what a judge described as “commodities”.

Who are the Brzezinski family?

Five men and three women were convicted of modern slavery offences and money laundering last Friday.

At the end of a second case last month, a jury at Birmingham Crown Court convicted two men, 52-year-old Ignacy Brzezinski and Wojciech Nowakowski, 41.

A third, Jan Sadowski, 26, admitted his guilt on the first day of trial.

Ignacy Brzezinski is currently on the run but was sentenced in his absence on Friday to 11 years.

Judge Mary Stacey said: “As the head of the family, he set the tone of the operation, and also enjoyed the fruits of the conspiracy, riding round in his Bentley and a fleet of high-performance cars at his disposal.”


UK's largest -ever modern slavery ring smashed

Marek Chowanic, 30, was jailed for 11 years for trafficking, conspiracy to require another to perform forced labour and money laundering. Justyna Parczewska, 48, who was said by police to have played a “matriarchal role” by welcoming new arrivals, was given a five-and-a-half year sentence.

Marek Brzezinski, who made regular trips to north-east Poland to recruit workers, was jailed for nine years, Natalia Zmuda for four-and-a-half years and a recruitment consultant, Julianna Chodakiewicz, for five-and-a half years.

Wojciech Nowakowski, who was described as a one-time victim of the conspiracy who had become a spy and enforcer for the gang, was jailed for six and a half years. The only defendant to plead guilty, Jan Sadowski was given three years.

What conditions were their victims kept under?

The vulnerable victims, who ranged from 17 to over 60, were made to work long hours on farms, recycling centres and turkey-gutting factories and given as little as £20 per week by the traffickers.

One worker was given coffee and a chicken as payment for redecorating a house, while another man had to wash in a canal because he had no access to water.

The victims were housed in vermin-infested properties, often crammed four to a room, and forced to scavenge for food, mattresses and discarded cigarette butts.


Scottish ministers pile pressure on firms dodging modern slavery duties

Meanwhile, the gang bought lavish clothes and drove luxury cars, including a Bentley, and topped up their takings by claiming benefits in the victims’ names.

When one gang member took ill, the 48-year-old insisted his ID and personal belongings be removed from his pockets before paramedics arrived in order to conceal his identity and not jeopardise the group’s exploitation.

Ms Chodakowicz recruited some of the victims through the employment agency she worked for and advised the gang-masters on how to train victims on what to say at work in order to avoid suspicion

What is modern slavery?

Slavery didn’t end with abolition in the 19th century, it still exists in varying forms globally. It is estimated that around 40.3 million people around the world through forced labour, forced marriage or forced sexual exploitation.

The British government estimates that tens of thousands of people are in modern slavery in the UK today with most people trafficked from other countries, most commonly Albania, Vietnam, Nigeria, Romania and Poland.