"Violent and controlling" gangmaster jailed for seven years in legal first

A 40-year-old Lithuanian gangmaster who supplied labour to farmers and growers in Norfolk has been jailed for seven years - the first time a custodial sentence has been handed down for breaching gangmasters regulations.

Audrius Morkunas pleaded guilty to acting as a gangmaster without a licence, to claiming to be a gangmaster by using another company's Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) licence, and to laundering money. He was also jailed for assault.

He received seven years for acting as an unlicensed gangmaster, seven years for money laundering and 18 months for assault, to run concurrently.

Morkunas built up an organised crime group which charged £400 each to place Lithuanians in work as well as letting substandard accommodation to them and charging them for transport.

He "displayed aggression and used violence to control many of the workers", according to Norfolk police, as well as controlling their bank accounts and seizing their passports and other documents.

A joint investigation with the GLA, begun in February 2011, led to Morkunas being arrested in June 2012.

Detective constable Neil Starland said: "He is a violent and controlling individual and it's pleasing to see him convicted. It brings an end to many months of misery for those workers he exploited and controlled."

GLA chief executive Paul Broadbent added: "The GLA unveiled its updated strategy in June and Audrius Morkunas is precisely the type of individual our fresh approach is designed to tackle. I take great satisfaction from the fact that our investigation has resulted in a substantial custodial sentence for this man."

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