Slavery gang who made nearly £1.5m are ordered to pay back as little as £1

The slavery gang. Clockwise, from top left, Seweryn Szmyt, Robert Majewski, Pawel Majewski and Sabastian Mandzik.
The slavery gang. Clockwise, from top left, Seweryn Szmyt, Robert Majewski, Pawel Majewski and Sabastian Mandzik.

Members of a criminal gang who made almost £1.5m by running a modern day slavery business which exploited migrant workers have been ordered to pay back as little as £1.

Sabastian Mandzik, 40, was the "linchpin" of an illegal family firm, run alongside relatives Robert Majewski, 45, Pawel Majewski, 27, and Seweryn Szmyt, 20, to exploit vulnerable workers who were enticed to England from Poland with the promise of well paid work.

Newcastle Crown Court heard once the employees entered the UK, they were taken by the gang, who were mostly based in Jarrow, to get national insurance numbers and bank accounts but forced to hand over all of their paper work.

The vulnerable men and women were then sent to do heavy work at refuse and recycling plants across the North-East of England and given just a few pounds to live on while being put up in run-down accommodation with not even a mattress to sleep on and having to scavenge for food.

The court heard the workers were forced to put up with their bleak plights through force, humiliation and threats to themselves and their families, while their "dignity and self respect" was stripped from them.

A judge said the case involved "human beings being deliberately degraded" and included the victims being spat at if they complained about their situation.

During the illegal plot, from June 2014 until last September, when one of the workers found the courage to phone the police, the gang had laundered more than £1m through the workers' bank accounts.

The men were all jailed after a trial last year and were back in the dock on Friday for their assets to be seized by prosecutors under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

The court heard Mandzik made £465,029 through his criminal behaviour but has only £12,324 in assets, which he must hand over or face a further six months behind bars.

Robert Majewski made £436,918 but has no assets and must therefore pay back just £1.

Pawel Majewski made £430,472 and has just £5,610 available, which he must pay or face three further months behind bars.

Szmyt made £10,000 through criminal conduct but also has no assets and must also pay back just £1.

Mandzik, Szmyt, and Pawel Majewski, all of Percy Street, Jarrow, and Robert Majewski, of Ilford Road, London, were all convicted of conspiracy to require persons to perform forced labour and conspiracy to transfer criminal property after the trial last year.

Mandzik was also convicted by the jury of conspiring to arrange or facilitate travel of another with a view of that person being exploited.

Mandzik was jailed for 12 years, Robert Majewski for eight years, Pawel Majewski for seven years and Szmyt for five years.

All four, who the judge said were "extraordinarily devious", were given slavery and trafficking prevention orders to control their future behaviour.

Judge Stephen Ashurst told the men at the time: "Throughout the ages vulnerable people have been exploited and despite the efforts of reforms over the country to outlaw slavery it has not been eradicated and continues to thrive in various parts of the world.

"Sadly, as this case has demonstrated, the exploitation of such people continues in our country."

The court heard the workers, who had vulnerabilities and problems, were enticed to the UK with the promise of a wage four-times that they could earn in Poland, with minor deductions for accommodation and agency fees.

But the judge said some workers had to "roam the streets looking for discarded mattresses as there was nothing else on which they could lay their heads on in the properties" and some were seen taking discarded sweets from the refuse and recycling depots they were forced to work at, as it was their only means of food.