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Three held in 'slave' factory raid

Three suspected slave masters are under arrest after a raid on a factory rescued 20 Eastern European people working 80-hour weeks for £25 pay.

The raid yesterday on the premises in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, came during an on-going operation by the authorities against human trafficking.

Three men, aged 51, 43 and 40 were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to require another person to perform forced or compulsory labour and conspiracy to commit trafficking offences.

A 24-year-old man was also arrested on suspicion of immigration offences.

The raid follows the first stage of Operation Retriever in November, when 15 people across Greater Manchester were arrested and five charged for their involvement in a trafficking ring which sold a pregnant woman into a sham marriage and attempted to trick her into aborting her baby.

Police also found 10 Eastern European immigrants living in "terrible conditions" in a house, with up to three or four sleeping in each room.

Officers discovered these men and women were being taken to work in a factory in Rochdale each day, where they were paid less than two pounds per hour for working more than 80 hours per week.

When police raided the factory they found a workforce of 20 Eastern European immigrants working 80-hour weeks, enforced by the men who owned and ran the factory.

Detective Inspector James Faulkner of GMP said: "This is another excellent result from a joint operation which has strived to uncover and protect vulnerable victims from the men and women hoping to exploit them for their own financial gain.

"The men and women working in the factory have told us that they were subjected to physical and verbal assaults at the hands of their employers and forced to work more than 80-hours before ending up with around £25 for their week's work.

"This is a typical example of how modern slavery can work in the UK.

"The men and women are promised accommodation and jobs, but are forced to live in cramped, terrible conditions before being taken to work in a factory for more than 12 hours each day.

"At the end of the week, the factory owners pay them around £125 for their 80 hours, but then take up to £100 away immediately for rent, travel and other expenses.

"This leaves the men and women effectively working for pennies, while simultaneously ensuring they remain reliant on the people enslaving them.

"When you consider that this factory was producing frames and pictures for major high street companies, with contracts running into the millions of pounds, it proves just how much money these men stood to make from this exploitation.

"Now GMP and our partners in Rochdale Council will be striving to safeguard these victims from further exploitation, and will do our utmost to ensure that the people responsible for this injustice are punished to the full extent of the law."

Mark Widdup, Director of Economy and Environment with Rochdale Borough Council said: "Today's raid is another example of agencies working together to share, connect and act on information, quickly and effectively.

"Through truly ground breaking initiatives like PET, the Partnership Enforcement Team, we use all our tools and powers, be it through housing, revenues and benefits or trading standards to disrupt criminality in the Borough.

"We want to send a clear message that Rochdale Council and the police are committed to rooting out criminal behaviour, bringing the perpetrators to justice and helping victims."

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