London 'slaves' case: Couple arrested ran Communist sect in the 1970s

Both were arrested last week, accused of keeping three women as domestic slaves

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The Independent Online

The couple arrested in the south London "slavery" case were leaders of a close-knit Maoist group in the 1970s, police have revealed.

Aravindan "Comrade Bala" Balakrishnan, 73, and his wife Chanda, 67, ran a well-known collective called the Workers’ Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse Tung Thought.

According to the Evening Standard, they have been linked to 13 properties across the capital.

Both were arrested last week, suspected of involvement in forced labour and domestic servitude. They have also been arrested on suspicion of immigration offences, and bailed until January.

The alleged captives - a 30-year-old Briton, a 69-year-old Malaysian and a 57-year-old Irish woman - were released from the Brixton home by police and workers from the Freedom Charity several weeks ago. They were said to be “deeply traumatised.”

Detective Inspector Kevin Hyland, who is leading the investigation, said last week that the women’s alleged servitude was three times longer than anything seen before by police. The youngest of the alleged victims is thought to have been in the house all her life.

Steve Rayner, an Oxford University Professor who researched the group in the 1970s, told the Standard: "They were a tiny, very tight-knit group clearly under the spell of their leader 'Comrade' Balakrishnan. They refused to recognise the legitimacy of the state and maintained a hostile attitude towards the establishment and towards the rest of the far-left in Britain at that time.

“Their ideology was profoundly detached from reality. I had assumed that they had sunk without trace until this recent news.”

David Cameron's official spokesman said the Prime Minister regarded slavery as "utterly appalling," and highlighted a current bill which the Government hopes could battle the kind of servitude which is alleged.

The Slavery Bill includes tough new sentencing plans for human traffickers, and will introduce Trafficking Prevention Orders to restrict the activity and movement of convicted traffickers.