Two men jailed in Surrey Police's first modern slavery case
Two men will be behind bars for a total of 13 and a half years between them after being found guilty of human trafficking offences, Surrey Police’s first conviction for modern slavery.
Laszlo Egeresi, 37, and Gabor Olah, 25, both of Molesey Road, Hersham, were sentenced today (3 April), after being found guilty last month following a five-week trial at Kingston Crown Court.
Egeresi and Olah were both found guilty by a unanimous verdict on one count of human trafficking for the purposes of exploitation under section 2 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015. Both were also found guilty by a majority verdict on a second count, while Egeresi was found guilty by a majority verdict on a third count. However, Egeresi was found not guilty of a fourth count of human trafficking for the purposes of exploitation.
Egeresi has been jailed for 7 and a half years and Olah for 6 years. Both have been made the subject of a 7-year human trafficking order. The investigating officer Detective Constable Alex Protts will also receive a judge's commendation for her work.
The pair were arrested after officers carried out warrants at three addresses in Walton-on-Thames in the early hours on Friday, 23 June. They were joined by officers and staff from the National Crime Agency, the Department of Work and Pensions, The Salvation Army and the Red Cross.
Officers were acting on information that EU nationals who were working legally as kitchen staff locally were being exploited for excessive accommodation, transport and administrative costs.
The activity was focused on establishing the status of workers at the locations to see if they were victims of human trafficking or were being exploited through slavery, poor living conditions or low, non-existent wages, or through financial exploitation for the benefit of others.
Detective Constable Alex Protts said:
“We are delighted with this result after months of hard work. This operation was not only about tackling those that exploit vulnerable people through human trafficking and modern day slavery but also to hold out a lifeline to help those that are victims of these crimes.
"This case was particularly challenging as we had to persuade one of the victims to come back from Hungary to give evidence. All evidence was given in Hungarian and translated during the trial. Their evidence was extremely powerful and highlighted how the constant threats of being physically assaulted or thrown out on the streets forced them to comply.”
Detective Superintendent Karen Mizzi said:
“I am extremely pleased with the outcome of this case after all the hard work that has been undertaken over the past couple of months.
“Modern slavery is a crime that exploits the most vulnerable people in our society, often in the form of labour exploitation.
“People think of it as something that happened years ago certainly not today and certainly not within the leafy streets of Surrey. However, signs of slavery are often hidden making it difficult to spot victims but it is closer than you think. Victims caught up in modern slavery are extremely vulnerable and, as we did in this case, we will do everything we can to protect them.”
Steve Wilday, Head of the National Crime Agency's Modern Slavery Human Trafficking Unit, said:
"Modern Slavery is a high priority for law enforcement and by working with partners like Surrey Police we are determined to pursue the criminals involved in this vile trade. It is a crime that affects all types of communities across every part of the UK, but we know it is difficult to spot because often vulnerable victims don't even know they are being exploited. There will be people living and working where victims come into contact with everyone else's so-called normal lives, and we need those people to speak to us."
Once victims have been convinced that they will be protected, The Salvation Army then offer their help and support.
Anne Read, Director of Anti Trafficking and Modern Slavery for The Salvation Army, said:
"Following the police operation that took place in Surrey the victims were safely delivered into protective care and offered specialist support through a Government contract operated by The Salvation Army. This provides vital help and support to adult victims of this pitiless exploitation which gives them the very best chance to try and recover through comprehensive specialised services, which can range from intensive 24/7 support in the first stages of recovery or for people with high-level needs to counselling and help with accommodation, repatriation, finances and finding employment.
“For England and Wales please call The Salvation Army’s 24-hour confidential referral helpline on 0300 303 8151 to refer someone or seek advice if you consider yourself to be a potential victim of modern slavery or suspect someone you have come into contact with may be a victim of modern slavery."
*Anyone with suspicions can call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700.