Licence refused due to woman’s links with Wisbech criminal gangmaster
- Credit: Archant
A woman who had repeated financial dealings with Wisbech criminal gangmaster Ivars Mezals has been refused a licence for a new labour supply business.
Natalija Vincukova was deemed to be not fit and proper when she applied for a Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) licence in March 2018 for her business NV Professional Staff Services, of Market Place, Boston.
Vincukova, along with her husband Janis Vincukova, were previously stripped of GLAA licences in 2014 when an operation uncovered links to Wisbech-based criminal Ivars Mezals, who was jailed for 18 months for operating as a gangmaster without a licence.
Investigators and Cambridgeshire Police found connections between workers staying in Mezals’ properties and NV Gangwork, based also on Market Place, Boston.
This discovery resulted in licences for both NV Gangwork and JN Gangwork - businesses belonging to the Vincukovas - being revoked.
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A licence application for a separate company set up just prior to the revocations was also refused by the GLAA.
The couple appealed all three decisions but in 2016 were unsuccessful, with employment judge Peter Britton describing Ms Vincukova’s credibility in particular as “shot”.
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In considering her latest application, the GLAA was concerned that there was still no credible explanation for her dealings with Mezals together with false statements she made, under oath, during the appeal hearing.
Despite providing no explanation or answers to these concerns, Vincukova appealed the decision.
Latvian gangmaster Mezals’ exploited vulnerable migrant workers.
He had housed and subjected a number of field workers to forced labour in the Fenland area of Cambridgeshire, typically paying them less than £20 per week.
He was charged as a result of Operation Pheasant and Operation Endeavour.
The large-scale multi-agency initiative to clamp down on worker exploitation carried out by the GLA, Cambridgeshire Police and others.
The Vincukova’s were labelled as “evasive” by the GLAA and didn’t offer “no plausible explanation of financial dealings and more than 600 calls” with Mezals.
Between £2,000 and £3,000 were described by the appellants as Mr Mezals’ weekly wages for tractor driving or flower picking, and repayments for a £25,000 loan, which he had handed over to Mr Vincukova in £20 notes on a petrol station forecourt.
An employment tribunal heard before Judge Britton in Nottingham earlier this year subsequently dismissed Ms Vincukova’s appeal.
GLAA head of licensing, Charlotte Woodliffe, said: “I am very pleased that the judge dismissed Vincukova’s appeal and put on record that we were correct in refusing her a licence because she was not fit and proper.
“Just three years ago, the same judge said she was lucky to have not faced prosecution herself and was involved in a corrupt relationship with Mezals, who of course was sent to prison for his criminal actions.
“In her application, Vincukova failed to recognise her dishonest behaviour and explain her dealings with Mezals, thereby giving our licensing team a very straightforward decision to make.
“I hope this refusal sends a strong message that unless people genuinely change their ways and demonstrate a clear commitment to legitimately operate within our regulated sectors, we will continue to uphold our licensing standards to the fullest extent.”
Acting as an unlicensed gangmaster is a criminal offence which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine.