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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 February 2005, 14:56 GMT
Rise of a modern-day slave trader
Victor Solomka
Victor Solomka arrived in Britain on the back of a lorry
Just four years after arriving in the UK as an asylum seeker, Victor Solomka became Britain's biggest gangmaster.

A police officer described Solomka, 44, as a modern-day slave trader who made a personal fortune on the back of the misery of those he employed.

He exploited a market where factories are desperate for workers and illegal immigrants desperate for wages.

Solomka accumulated a multi-million fortune while, it was reported, his workers made as little as 2 an hour.

Solomka's rise had been remarkably rapid from a factory worker with nothing to his name in 2000 to the country's predominant gangmaster with an apparently legitimate business with 700 workers on his books.

Cramped accommodation

Unknown to the bosses of the businesses to which he supplied labour, he was taking a slice of his workers' hourly rate and charging them hefty sums for cramped and overcrowded accommodation and transport.

Solomka's career as a gangmaster began when he set up a recruitment company, Fast Labour, supplying casual labourers, mainly eastern Europeans and many illegal immigrants, to work on farms in East Anglia.

The company, which later changed it name to Avik, moved on to supplying labour to fish processing plants in Scotland where, his trial heard, his company had built up a good reputation.

With the 1 he was earning for every hour one of his people worked, it was estimated he was making about 3m a year.

Illegals are afraid of the Home Office, police, they are afraid and they never protest
Former Solomka worker

Former workers for Solomka are still too frightened to be identified.

One claimed the workers were subjected to threats and violence.

"He is a very greedy man, without any reason. And he is involved in beating up people - he hires men who would cripple you, like 'god crippled the tortoise'.

"In other words they would give you a very severe beating."

The operation eventually brought Solomka to the attention of police and an eight-month operation last year culminated in the arrest of 38 workers in Aberdeen. Most were later deported.

In March 2004 police caught up with Solomka at his large detached well-secured home at King's Lynn in Norfolk where he kept a fleet of cars.

Det Insp Paul Cunningham, of Norfolk Police, said: "He is a man with limited knowledge of the English language, so despite that he managed to amass a personal fortune on the misery of others.

Unfortunate people

"Two months before he was arrested he was paying into his personal account nearly 13,500 a week - money he's made on the back of these unfortunate people."

One former worker said hiring illegal workers made it easier for him to control them.

"Illegals are afraid of the Home Office, police, they are afraid and they never protest. They do not attempt anything, they stay in flats and they work in factories and they do nothing because they are afraid that they will be sacked and that will be that."

Solomka, who was given leave to work in the UK shortly after arriving, was given permission by the Home Office to remain indefinitely in 2003.

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