59-year-old Lithuanian man arrested in West Row on suspicion of slavery charges and human trafficking

West Row sign.

West Row sign. - Credit: Archant

An alleged human trafficker and illegal gangmaster has been arrested in Suffolk, becoming the first arrest under new modern slavery powers in the country.

Suffolk police working with the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) arrested a 59-year-old Lithuanian man on suspicion of acting as a gangmaster without a licence and human trafficking offences.

The arrest was made in West Row, near Mildenhall, with the suspect questioned by the GLAA and Suffolk police before being released under investigation. Enquiries continue.

The arrest was the first since new powers to allow GLAA officers to carry out arrests rather than refer offenders on to police forces.

Since the expansion two months ago, they have arrested more than 25 people on suspicion of exploiting workers, safeguarded 76 potential victims of slavery, and recovered tens of thousands of pounds in confiscated wages.

The Government has invested an additional £2million to extend the remit of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA), which has been renamed the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA).

Its new mission is to prevent, detect and investigate worker exploitation across the entire economy.

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GLAA chief executive Paul Broadbent said: “Modern slavery is abhorrent; it is described by the prime minister as ‘the greatest human rights issue of our time’.

“Much of it is controlled by organised crime gangs who have links to drug smuggling, and gun violence. But those who profit and perpetrate slavery and exploitation should now be looking over their shoulders because the creation of the GLAA is a significant step in our desire to see it eradicated.”

Estimates put the number of slaves in the UK between 10,000 to 13,000 but the GLAA believes it could be higher.

Slavery and labour exploitation have infiltrated legitimate supply chains from retail, construction, care homes and the hotel and hospitality industry.

Sarah Newton, minister for vulnerability, safeguarding and countering extremism, said: “Modern slavery is a barbaric crime which destroys lives. We have taken world leading action to protect victims and deal with perpetrators, and extended the reach of the GLAA to enable them to do even more.”