James Hockaday, Metro, July 30, 2019
Ignacy Brzezinski, 52, went on the run after being convicted of leading a ruthless gang which trafficked more than 400 vulnerable people into the country. The Polish Roma gypsy crime family would beat their victims, forced them to live in squalor and even made them wash in canals. Their victims were brought to the UK to work for as little as 50p a day while the gang lived lavish lifestyles and pocketed up to £2.4 million. Earlier this month the eight-strong group were collectively jailed for more than 55 years in what a judge described as ‘the largest conspiracy of its type ever known’.
But Brzezinski – who drove around the West Midlands in a Bentley – skipped court bail on the eve of sentencing and fled the country. A European Arrest Warrant was issued on July 17 after cops received intelligence suggesting he was back in his native Poland. Seven days later Brzezinski was detained by Polish police in a flat in the city of Włocławek on July 24. He remains in custody and awaiting extradition back to the UK where he will begin an 11-year jail sentence. Detective Chief Inspector Nick Dale, of West Midlands Police, said: ‘The case attracted international media coverage – which gave us fresh leads as to Brzezinski’s whereabouts.
‘The Central Investigation Bureau of the Polish Police found him lying low in an apartment; our understanding is that he didn’t try to run, he surrendered quietly and instead seemed rather surprised he’d been traced to a flat that didn’t belong to him. ‘Brzezinski believed he could escape justice for exploitation on an industrial scale, showing nothing but contempt for his victims and the court. ‘It’s really satisfying he has been arrested so quickly, and we are working with the Polish authorities to extradite him as soon as possible, so that his victims will know he is serving his sentence along with his co-conspirators.’ The group of five men and three women lured vulnerable people from Poland – including the homeless, ex-prisoners and alcoholics – with the promise of employment, money and accommodation.
But in reality they were made to work long hours on farms, rubbish recycling centres and turkey gutting factories for as little as £20 per week. They were housed in vermin-infested properties dotted across West Bromwich, Sandwell, Smethwick and Walsall in the West Midlands. They were often crammed four to a room – fed out-of-date food and forced to scavenge for dumped mattresses to sleep on. At some properties there were no working toilets, heating, furniture or hot water and some victims told how they were forced to wash in canal water.
One victim even said said he preferred conditions in a Polish prison to working for the criminal gang. The cruel group also claimed benefits in the victims’ names without their knowledge. It is estimated the abusers made in excess of £2 million between June 2012 and October 2017. Brzezinski – who was living in West Bromwich, but is originally from Chelmno-Pomorskie, Poland – seized control of victims’ bank accounts and plundered their wages. When police raided his home they found a stash of documents in victims’ names, their bank cards and a significant quantity of cash.
Sentencing at Birmingham Crown Court, Judge Mary Stacey said their ‘degradation’ of fellow human beings had been ‘totally unacceptable’. She described their trafficking conspiracy as the ‘most ambitious, extensive and prolific’ modern day slavery network ever exposed in the UK. Dave Hucker, of NCA International, said: ‘We are delighted to have played a role in ensuring Ignacy Brzezinski will face justice for the horrendous crimes he has committed. ‘Identifying Brzezinski’s location and his subsequent arrest were possible because of our excellent relationship and co-operation with the Central Investigation Bureau of the Polish Police. ‘The National Crime Agency’s international liaison officers are placed in strategic global locations to lend their expertise and help disrupt serious and organised crime.’