(Left to right) James Jacobs, Danny Hicks, Gary Calder and David Hall. Photo courtesy of Essex Police.
HÀ NỘI - Five Vietnamese nationals have been rescued from a life of slavery by the authorities in the UK.
Police say they were living in ‘appalling conditions’ and forced to grow and guard millions of dollars’ worth of illegal drugs.
They were discovered in cramped living conditions following a two-year investigation into modern slavery and drug supply across the county of Essex – the same place where 39 Vietnamese nationals died in the back of a lorry as they tried to illegally enter the UK two years ago.
Anonymity laws in the UK prevent details of victims of slavery from being released to the media, so information about the ages or sex of the five Vietnamese has not been published.
Last week at Basildon Crown Court in the south of England, five men were sentenced after admitting the crimes.
Four were jailed for a combined total of 15 years and 6 months. A fifth man was given a suspended prison sentence.
The cramped living conditions where the Vietnamese citizens were forced to stay. Photo courtesy of Essex Police.
A spokesman for the Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Unit of Essex Police said: “I’m extremely proud of all of the teams who have been involved in the investigation, whose hard work and dedication has helped sentence five men for their crimes and prevented a substantial quantity of cannabis from entering the illegal market.
“Not only did the men capitalise on the growing and selling of illegal drugs, they threatened and exploited five vulnerable people into doing their bidding.
“Not one ounce of care was shown for their welfare and had they not been safeguarded, they would have been worked into the ground.
“People trapped in modern slavery have their freedoms taken from them and often have to endure terrible working and living conditions.
“Although we often associate modern slavery with international enterprises, the sad truth is that there are victims across Essex who need our support and perpetrators that need to be brought to justice.”
This specialist police unit investigates organised crime groups who are exploiting vulnerable people by forcing them to ‘garden’ and guard cannabis growing.
Officers carried out warrants in four locations across Essex and London between November 2019 and July 2020.
At one industrial park in Essex, eight units had been converted into cannabis growing facilities and here police discovered a total of 1,015 plants.
At a recycling factory a further 850 plants were discovered and at two more addresses raided by police, 387 plants were seized.
In total, police say more than 2,000 plants were found with an estimated street value of more than US$2.6 million.
Cannabis plants worth around $2.6 million dollars were seized by police. Photo courtesy of Essex Police
Last week, two years after the investigation began, those responsible were sentenced after pleading guilty to conspiracy to produce cannabis.
Ringleader James Jacobs, 39, was sentenced to five years, Danny Hicks, 41, jailed for three years and eight months. Gary Calder, 43, got three years and six months and 37-year-old David Hall was jailed for three years and four months.
A fifth man, Terrence Green, 34, received a suspended sentence of two and half years was ordered to complete 100 unpaid hours of work. - VNS