Gangmaster who arrived penniless guilty of £5m racket

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The Independent Online

A Ukrainian asylum-seeker, who came to Britain penniless and with his shoes held together with elastic bands, was convicted yesterday of operating a £5m "gangmaster" operation.

A Ukrainian asylum-seeker, who came to Britain penniless and with his shoes held together with elastic bands, was convicted yesterday of operating a £5m "gangmaster" operation.

Victor Solomka is thought to have run one of the UK's largest illegal immigration rackets, supplying cheap labour mainly to fish factories in Scotland. At its peak, he was making more than £13,000 a week and laundered the illegal profits through sham companies to avoid detection.

While more than 700 east European workers were put up in cramped accommodation, and threatened with violence if they complained, Solomka, 44, was living in a £250,000 home in King's Lynn, Norfolk, and driving a Mercedes. He was found guilty yesterday by a jury at King's Lynn Crown Court of conspiracy to facilitate the commission of breaches of immigration law and money laundering, which each carry a 14-year jail term.

He will be sentenced next Friday. Crown prosecutors intend to apply to confiscate his assets.

Solomka arrived in Britain in 2000 on a lorry from Ukraine, where he had owned a successful sausage factory. He applied for asylum on the grounds of persecution from local political rivals who he claimed burnt down his house. He was granted leave to remain in May 2003.