A fugitive modern slavery gang boss who fled the UK during trial “surrendered quietly” after police found him holed up in a flat in Poland.
Ignacy Brzezinski lived what a judge called a “life of leisure” off the earnings of more than 400 people forced to work for him and his criminal co-conspirators.
He was one of five men and three women jailed earlier this month at Birmingham Crown Court for their roles running the UK’s largest ever modern slavery ring.
Some of the gang’s victims worked for as little as 50p an hour, while their criminal masters earned £2 million between 2012 and 2017.
Bentley-driving Brzezinski, from West Bromwich – but originally from Poland – was given bail at trial after breaking his leg falling down stairs.
But the 52-year-old, of Beechwood Avenue, fled while jurors deliberated and later convicted him, with trial judge Mary Stacey telling his lawyers their client had “abused the compassion of the court”.
A European Arrest Warrant was issued and West Midlands Police, the National Crime Agency and Polish police traced “surprised” Brzezinski to an apartment in the city of Wloclawek on July 24.
He is now in custody in Poland awaiting extradition to the UK, where he will begin an 11-year sentence for helping run the modern slavery ring.
The trial followed a three-year police investigation which uncovered a well-organised criminal gang led by the Brzezinski family – which preyed on the homeless, ex-prisoners and alcoholics, from Poland.
Police became involved after being informed by anti-slavery charity Hope for Justice, which had had contact with some of the victims through its outreach work.
The gang lured and then trafficked vulnerable victims to the UK with the promise of good money, but instead housed them in squalor.
Victims, aged 17 to over 60, were housed across at least nine different addresses in West Bromwich, Walsall, Sandwell and Smethwick, crammed up to four to a room, fed out-of-date food, and forced to scavenge for mattresses to sleep on.
One man had to wash in a canal because he had no other access to water and many had to go to soup kitchens and food banks to get enough to eat.
Sentencing Ignacy earlier this year, Judge Stacey described the “high functioning alcoholic” as having “direct control”, and “living in the nerve centre of the organisation”.
She said: “As the head of the family, he set the tone of the operation, and also enjoyed the fruits of the conspiracy, riding round in his Bentley and a fleet of high performance cars at his disposal.
“His life of leisure was also financed from complainants.”
She described the sophisticated operation as “the largest conspiracy of its type ever known”.
Detective Chief Inspector Nick Dale, who ran the West Midlands Police investigation, said: “The case attracted international media coverage – which gave us fresh leads as to Brzezinski’s whereabouts.
“The Central Investigation Bureau of the Polish Police found him lying low in an apartment.
“Our understanding is that he didn’t try to run, he surrendered quietly and instead seemed rather surprised he’d been traced to a flat that didn’t belong to him.
“Brzezinski believed he could escape justice for exploitation on an industrial scale, showing nothing but contempt for his victims and the court.
“It’s really satisfying he has been arrested so quickly, and we are working with the Polish authorities to extradite him as soon as possible, so that his victims will know he is serving his sentence along with his co-conspirators.”
Dave Hucker, from the NCA, credited the “excellent relationship” with Polish colleagues for Brzezinski’s arrest.