A man who had been due to stand trial later this month over the alleged use of slave labour at a Rugby hand car wash has had the charges against him dropped.
Ermal Lushaj had pleaded not guilty at Warwick Crown Court to four charges of holding people ‘in slavery or servitude’ on dates between October 16 and November 28 last year.
Lushaj (33) of Abbey Street, Rugby, had also pleaded not guilty to arranging or facilitating the travel of the four people with a view to their exploitation.
In addition Lushaj, who entered his pleas with the aid of an Albanian interpreter, denied assaulting one of his alleged victims by beating.
The charges, brought under the Modern Slavery Act 2015, follow police raids at Lushaj’s home and at a hand car wash in Rugby where it is said the alleged victims had been put to work.
He had been due to stand trial at the court on July 29, but at a pre-trial review the court heard that three of the alleged victims had left the country.
And prosecutor Nicola Moore said: “I have kept it under review, and the one witness we thought we had got is in Germany and does not want to co-operate.”
She said it had therefore been decided to offer no evidence against Lushaj, who did not turn up for the hearing, so Judge Andrew Lockhart QC formally entered not guilty verdicts.
The judge observed that it was ‘always going to be difficult’ to prove the case, because two or three of the alleged victims said they were there of their own free will.
He said that even if it had been proved, it would have been at the lower end of the scale of such offences, commenting: “It’s not a case where people have been actively imprisoned.”