Mihai Varga gangmaster
Mihai Varga has been jailed for modern slavery offences West Midlands Police

A gangmaster who brought Eastern Europeans into the UK then paid them less than £2 ($2.80) per hour has been jailed for slavery offences.

Mihai Varga shuttled the men to a food processing factory in Staffordshire for 12-hour shifts but handed over just £20 a day to each of them after taking a large cut for himself.

His five Romanian victims, aged between 26 and 50, shared a cramped bedroom at his home in Ashwin Road, Handsworth, near Birmingham.

The men were forced to share mattresses and sleep on the floor in what police described as "squalid conditions".

They received their meagre payments completely unaware that the UK Living Wage was £7 an hour.

Varga, 39, was convicted of more than 20 modern slavery offences and jailed for five years at Birmingham Crown Court on 14 February.

He was arrested in September 2017 following a joint investigation by West Midlands Police, the National Crime Agency and the Gangmaster and Labour Abuse Authority.

Detective Constable Nick McCullogh, said: "We believe Varga had been exploiting workers from Eastern Europe over several years and investigations to identify other victims is on-going.

"This is the 21st century and we are committed to tackling people trafficking and modern slavery. We are continually looking to raise awareness of what is still a hidden crime and need the help of the public if they suspect someone of being an unlicensed gangmaster."

Birmingham Crown Court
Varga was jailed at Birmingham Crown Court Google Maps

Michael Heyes, Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) Investigating Officer, added: "There are manipulative, devious and cruel men and women in every corner of the country right now exploiting workers for a handsome profit.

"Many victims aren't aware that the majority of the wage they're earning is going to their exploiter, or that they are entitled to holiday pay, sick pay or days off to rest. The basic rights you and I enjoy in our jobs are withheld from hard-working people who deserve better."

The Modern Slavery Act is increasingly used to prosecute people who exploit foreign workers. In January, three people who forced Vietnamese women and girls to work for nothing in nail bars around the country were jailed under the Act. In August last year, some 11 members of the same Irish Traveller family were convicted of exploiting vulnerable men over several years.