Sports Direct Modern Slavery Brothers Have Been Brought To Justice
Erwin and Krystian Markowski, both from Nottingham, recruited the vulnerable men to work at the Sports Direct warehouse in Shirebrook, Derbyshire. The pair controlled their victims’ bank accounts and kept most of their wages, totalling £35,000, between 2015 and 2016, Nottingham Crown Court heard.
They have both been sentenced to six years in prison for modern slavery. Erwin, 38, of Cedar Road, and Krystian, 35, of Harcourt Road, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to arrange travel with a view to exploitation and fraud by false representation. They were given a two-and-a-half year sentence for fraud to run at the same time as the six years.
The prosecution accepted it was not “forced labour” but said the workers had “very little choice”. Chief crown prosecutor Janine Smith said: “The Markowskis preyed on vulnerable people in Poland and promised them accommodation and a tempting wage in order to lure them to the UK. The reality upon arrival was a life of squalid living conditions and near total control by the defendants.” Det Con Sarah Fearn, of Nottinghamshire Police, said: “The Markowski brothers financially benefited from the hard work of others and in return the victims were left feeling used, distressed and manipulated.”
The outcome and implications for businesses
A spokesperson for Sports Direct said: ‘We welcome the conviction of these two individuals, who were brought to justice after being reported to police by the Transline agency and Sports Direct in February 2016. It sends a clear message that we will not tolerate these kinds of behaviour.’
With the coming into force of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, UK businesses will need to take a much more proactive approach towards the audit of their supply chains than they may have taken in the past. Section 54 of the Act obliges UK businesses (or overseas businesses “carrying on business” in the UK) and which have an annual turnover of £36 million to publish an annual statement on their website which explains the steps they have taken to combat slavery and human trafficking in their supply chain. The companies must really need to “get to know” their suppliers (and the suppliers of those suppliers), whether based in the UK or overseas. The Government has published guidance to assist with compliance and suggested a focus in the statement on the following areas:
- information about the business’s structure, its business and supply chains
- the business’s policies relating to modern slavery
- its due diligence processes in relation to slavery and trafficking in its business and supply chain
- the parts of the business where there is a risk of modern slavery and the steps it has taken to assess and manage that risk
- its effectiveness in ensuring that modern slavery is not taking place, measured against appropriate performance indicators
- information about the training about slavery and human trafficking available to staff.
For more information on how your business can be supported to implement these requirements contact Colleen.Theron@clt-envirolaw.com