02/11/2011 12:05 GMT | Updated 02/01/2012 10:12 GMT

Gang 'Trafficked Polish To UK To Claim £2m In Benefits'

A Polish gang that trafficked more than 200 people into Britain in order to illegally claim £2m in benefits has been smashed by the Metropolitan Police.

Scotland Yard said on Wednesday that 29 people had been arrested in Poland and two in London.

A joint investigation carried out by the Met, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Polish police discovered that the gang brought 230 people to the UK with the promise of work - but then tricked them into signing papers to open bank accounts.

The gang then applied for a series of benefits including Tax Credits using the details and got the money paid into the accounts - with all the cash going back to the ringleaders in Poland rather than the victims.

HMRC said it had investigated over 230 Tax Credit awards with a value in excess of £2m during the course of the inquiry.

While police in Britain conducted raids in South London and Birmingham, Polish police cornered the gang as they gathered for a wedding.

Detective Inspector Kevin Hyland, from Scotland Yard's Human Exploitation and Organised Crime Command unit, said it was vital that UK and Polish authorities worked together on the operation.

“These vulnerable victims were trafficked here to be exploited and satisfy the greed of these criminals. They were brought here under the impression they were getting a job but were left with nothing, with many ending up on the street," he said.

“The complex international dimension to this inquiry meant that it was vital to have a close relationship with the Polish authorities, which is why they joined us on this operation today.

“These arrests are the first step in these victims getting justice in their home country and have prevented more money being stolen from the public purse.”

Police Major Monika Sokolowska from the Central Unit for Trafficking in Human Beings, in Poland, said the was becoming increasingly common.

“This form of trafficking is a new phenomenon in Poland at this present moment. In the past we were used to dealing with cases where people were trafficked for prostitution or for slavery but this new form of trafficking is becoming ever more prevalent," he said.

“This is a big case for us with over 200 statements taken from vulnerable witness who were exploited. These people were trafficked to the UK by criminals and did not receive any of the social benefits that were fraudulently claimed in their name."

Most of the victims are now back in Poland being aided by Polish authorities.