A Romanian man who used threats of violence and indebtedness to keep a group of his countrymen as slaves while he pocketed their wages from a London construction site has been sentenced to seven years in jail.
David Lupu, 29 (pictured), was found guilty of seven charges of holding a person in slavery after a five-week trial at Inner London Crown Court.
Slaveholder: David Lupu, 29, was found guilty of seven charges of holding a person in slavery after a five-week trial in London (The Met)
His victims were tricked, and said they were treated like animals while they worked on a demolition site.
Lupu kept them in poor, cramped conditions in Leyton, east London, withholding their ID cards and telling them they would have to pay hundreds of pounds for permits and certificates to work in the UK.
His victims had been lured from Romania to work on a demolition site in Lancaster Gate, which they started on 14 August 2017.
But by the end of the month they had not been paid, said the Metropolitan Police, which investigated the crime, supported by the fraud unit of the UK’s Construction Industry Training Board (CITB).
Lupu bought good food for himself but provided low quality food for the men, who were only allowed limited use of the washing machine and bathroom.
In total, 15 men were living in two, one-bedroom flats Lupu controlled. At night there were not enough beds to sleep on so some of them resorted to using mattresses they had found dumped in the street.
The men said they had come to London after being promised a wage of £50 a day for work and a good standard of living accommodation.
When the men confronted Lupu, he threatened to beat them to death, they said.
At the end of the trial, Lupu was convicted of enslaving seven of the men.
Fortunately, however, Lupu’s career as a London slaveholder was short-lived.
A few days after the confrontation with the men, Lupu travelled to Romania and two escaped, going to Forest Gate police station where they reported how they had been treated.
The men were taken to a place of safety and gave detailed statements.
Following that, detectives from the Met’s Modern Slavery and Kidnap Unit began an investigation, on 3 September.
Police raided the Leyton property on 6 September and arrested Lupu.
Lupu answered "no comment" to all questions put to him, police said.
"The victims in this case were promised work and a future in London. The reality was very different and they were exploited by the Lupu who arranged work with no intention of payment, saddling the victims in debt," said Detective Constable Marie Marshall, of the Met’s Modern Slavery and Kidnap Unit.
"The victims were forced to live in cramped conditions and their movements were controlled by Lupu. When interviewed by officers, the men said they felt like they were treated like animals."
Modern slavery is becoming more common in the UK’s construction industry, said Ian Sidney, CITB’s Fraud Investigator who assisted the Met Police investigation.
"Modern slavery is a horrific injustice that unfortunately is becoming more commonplace in the UK’s construction industry. Forcing people to work illegally not only deprives people of their human rights, it also harms the reputation of the industry, puts employers at risk, drives down wages and denies employment opportunities to many others," he said.