Victims of modern slavery worked on several high-profile projects with well-known contractors, a year-long investigation by Construction News has revealed.
Sites operated by housebuilder Crest Nicholson, CJ O’Shea, Galliard Homes and Interserve subsidiary Paragon have all been targeted by criminals over the past two years.
Specialist BDL Dry Lining and demolition labour supplier Number8 were also involved in modern slavery trials, having employed subcontractors that were subsequently revealed to have been involved in modern slavery.
Focusing on two successfully prosecuted modern slavery cases, CN traced how and where the criminals were able to enter the supply chain and what sites their victims ended up working at.
In June, three Romanian men were found guilty of modern slavery offences and sentenced to a combined 28 years in prison.
Brothers Valentin Lupu, 25, and Grigore Lupu, 39, were both handed 10-year terms. Alexandru Lupu, 43, was sentenced to eight years in prison.
An investigation found the Lupu brothers’ victims worked on projects for Crest Nicholson and a CJ O’Shea and Galliard joint venture.
Two of the brothers, Valentin and Grigore, were subcontractors for Carey Group-owned BDL Dry Lining and used this relationship to place victims on jobs.
BDL was contacted by the Metropolitan Police in November 2016 and made aware of suspicions about the brothers. The specialist was asked by authorities to covertly gather data on the brothers over a two-year period.
CJ O’Shea and Galliard Homes’ £50m, 311-flat Westgate House development in west London was one of the schemes the victims worked at.
The two firms told CN they would be re-examining the circumstances surrounding the case to see what can be learned.
“In light of the recent shocking court case and convictions, we have asked our legal teams to review the details and see what can be learned to further improve our practices,” they said in a joint statement.
“The short periods of time people spend on construction sites, in comparison to other workplaces, makes the building industry more attractive than others to unscrupulous characters intent on taking advantage of vulnerable workers. It is an ongoing process and we are determined to play our part in thwarting these criminals.”
Crest Nicholson, whose 2,500 home £150m Kilnwood Vale project in Surrey the victims worked at last year, pointed out that it did not employ the workers directly.
A Crest Nicholson spokesman said: “We are aware of the incident that occurred at Kilnwood Vale site in 2018. The three men in question were employed by a subcontractor and they were not Crest Nicholson employees. The police worked directly with the relevant subcontractors to the take appropriate action resulting in the recent convictions.
“We have number of policies that set out our approach to the identification and prevention of unethical practices which support our efforts to prevent slavery and human trafficking taking place in our business or our supply chain.”
In April 2018, David Lupu, a 29-year old Romanian national who supplied labour for demolition work, was sentenced to seven years in prison for slavery offences.
Mr Lupu is no relation to the previously mentioned Lupu brothers.
CN discovered that Mr Lupu’s victims worked on a luxury hotel refurbishment project for Interserve subsidiary Paragon.
Mr Lupu used labour agency Number8 Group to gain access to the job. Its owner, Pete Hart, told CN Mr Lupu misled him about the treatment of the workers.
Number8 co-operated fully with the successful conviction and has instituted a number of changes to its processes as a result.
In a statement provided to CN on the case, Interserve said its primary subcontractor had taken the “decision to subcontract certain services to a third party, who did not adhere to our strict modern slavery policy. Interserve takes cases like this very seriously and this matter is being thoroughly investigated.”
“Our suppliers and subcontractors are expected to comply with our business practices and ethical supply policies, and we were disappointed that this was not the case on this occasion,” it added.
You can read full story of how victims of modern slavery ended up on these projects here.
In 2018, a CN investigation revealed the scale of exploitation of undocumented workers in the industry, many of them Romanian.
The Metropolitan Police has also told CN there has been a significant increase in allegations of labour exploitation and modern slavery in the construction industry.
Anyone with information about potential victims of modern slavery can call their local police force on 101 or the Modern Slavery Helpline: 08000 121 700.
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