Fenland District Council welcomes sentencing of gangmasters

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Fenland District Council has welcomed the jail sentences handed down to two Latvian gangmasters who have been exploiting vulnerable migrant workers.

Ivars Mezals and Juris Valujevs were found guilty last week of acting as unlicensed gangmasters following a nine-week trial at Blackfriars Crown Court in London.

Mezals, aged 28, previously of Conference Way, Wisbech, was given an 18-month sentence while Valujevs, 36, of Turbus Road, Kings Lynn, was sentenced to one year and four months.

The trial arose as a result of Operation Pheasant and Operation Endeavour, joint activities carried out by a partnership comprising Fenland District Council, Cambridgeshire Constabulary, Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue, The Gangmaster Licensing Authority (GLA), Home Office Immigration Enforcement and HM Revenues and Customs.

Mezals was one of those arrested during a coordinated day of action on October 15 last year. Valujevs was arrested three days later.

Cllr Will Sutton, Fenland Council’s Cabinet member responsible for overseeing the council’s role in Operation Pheasant, said: “We welcome the verdicts and the sentences. I hope that they will send out a very strong message to those who exploit others for their own gain that their actions will not be tolerated.

“I am incredibly proud of what has been achieved by the council, Councillor David Oliver, my predecessor in this role, and the rest of the Operation Pheasant partnership and of all the officers and teams who worked on Operation Endeavour.

“We played a significant role in that day of action. In partnership with the police, we led the running of the reception centre which looked after and assisted 82 vulnerable migrant workers for three days. This took significant planning and effective partnership working to ensure that the complex needs of those individuals were met.

“Our partnership work will continue to ensure that those who ruthlessly exploit vulnerable people are brought to justice.”