'Beast' who beat, threatened and took thousands from vulnerable men he trafficked to Peterborough jailed

Marian Mustafa brought to justice after Peterborough employment agency raised concerns with authorities
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A man who trafficked vulnerable men from Romania to Peterborough has been jailed after a court heard how he exploited, threatened, assaulted and took thousands of pounds from his victims.

One of Marian Mustafa’s victims labelled him as ‘a beast’ – which Judge Sean Enright said was ‘a fair description of how 54-year-old Mustafa treated the men’ as the Romanian national was jailed for eight years at Peterborough Crown Court on Friday, July 7.

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The court heard two men were kept in poor conditions, with little food or money, after they were brought the UK on a Wizz Air flight from Romania in 2019. Both victims were described as being ‘thoroughly decent men who found themselves in difficult circumstances’ when Mustafa ‘exploited their misery.’

Marian Mustafa. Photo: GLAAMarian Mustafa. Photo: GLAA
Marian Mustafa. Photo: GLAA

Thankfully, the men’s plight was picked up by employment agency Staffline in Peterborough, who alerted the authorities, bringing Mustafa to justice.

‘Victims left at the mercy of the defendant’

Rufus D’Cruz, prosecuting, told the court: “Both victims, together with another man, were approached by the defendant to come to the UK from Romania. They were promised they would receive well paid work. However, there were no jobs lined up.’

They arrived at Luton Airport on April 20 2019, and were taken, eventually, to a house in Granville Street in Peterborough.

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But Mr D’Cruz said Mustafa then took control of the two men’s bank details and ID documents.

He said: “The two victims were left entirely at the mercy of the defendant, totally under his control.

"In addition to taking the documents, he used threats of, and actual violence.”

The men found work through an agency – but Mustafa took most of the money from their wages. One man said that on one occasion he had been expecting to receive £350, but only received £10.

Men left without proper food

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The court also heard evidence that one man, working at a vegetable plant, was spotted by his concerned supervisor. The supervisor was so concerned by the man’s appearance, he gave him £10 from his own pocket.

Mr D’Cruz said: “He watched him go straight to a vending machine and very quickly ate all the chocolate he could lay his hand on.”

The supervisor said his concerns were raised because ‘he was in a terrible state,’ was struggling on his feet, was unkempt, very shy, and wore the same clothes every day.

Mustafa was eventually arrested after concerns were raised to the employment agency by the third man who came to the UK with the two victims. The team at the Staffline agency called the Modern Slavery and Exploitation Helpline, and the investigation began.

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Mustafa was charged in 2020, however absconded back to Romania. Upon his return to the UK in 2022, he was arrested and remanded in custody.

Mustafa ‘looted’ victims’ bank accounts

Investigations revealed Mustafa had taken around £7,000 from the two men, with Mr D’Cruz saying he had ‘looted’ their accounts.

The two victims, now in their early 50s, were safeguarded by the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) and entered the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), a government framework ensuring victims of modern slavery and human trafficking receive access to the support that they need.

Robert Smith, defending, said Mustafa, of Granville Street, Peterborough, had expressed his wish to apologise for what he did.

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Mustafa pleaded guilty to two counts of arranging or facilitating the travel of an individual with a view to exploiting them

He added: “By pleading guilty, he has no doubt saved the court considerable time and expense, and it has meant his two victims have not had to come to court to give evidence.”

He said Mustafa had a number of health issues, and planned to return to Romania on his release.

Judge Enright said he was ‘not convinced’ by the remorse expressed, saying he believed Mustafa had carefully chosen his victims before duping them.

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Along with the prison sentence, a Slavery and trafficking prevention order was put in place for 12 years.

Investigators thank brave victims

GLAA Senior Investigating Officer Jen Baines said: “Mustafa exploited the victims through deception, debt bondage and violence to control their finances. He had total control of their bank accounts and made cash withdrawals without their permission. We are incredibly proud to have brought this offender to justice and would like to thank all of the Officers and witnesses in the case, especially our incredibly brave victims. This is a fantastic sentence, demonstrating the serious nature of these offences.

“Unfortunately, this type of control where workers are driven into and then controlled by debt is a common tactic employed by traffickers. Once in the UK, victims are often left in helpless situations, trapped trying to pay off sizeable debts with no way of escaping.

“Trafficking workers for the purposes of forced labour is completely unacceptable and we will do everything in our power as agency to stop worker exploitation across the UK.”

How to raise concerns about human trafficking

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If you have information that people have been trafficked into the UK and exploited for their labour, contact the GLAA by emailing [email protected] or by using the online reporting form.

Alternatively, call the Modern Slavery and Exploitation Helpline on 08000 121 700 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.