Christopher James Blakeney, of Conock, Devizes, admitted 12 counts of acting as an unlicensed gangmaster – eight in his own name and four on behalf his Calne-based company, Marden Management, which has since ceased trading.
Swindon Crown Court heard how Blakeney, 50, had ignored advice and warnings from the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) and supplied between 60 and 70 workers illegally over a period of more than three-and-a-half years.
He deducted fees from all salaries so workers were paid below the National Minimum Wage and misled some of the farmers he supplied workers to, causing them to commit criminal offences themselves, the court was told.
As well as the prison sentence suspended for two years, Blakeney was ordered to pay a total of £45,000 over the next three years in compensation to the workers he supplied illegally.
In addition, a confiscation order was issued for £12,801 under the Proceeds of Crime Act with Blakeney ordered to pay within six months or serve nine months in prison.
Judge Ambrose told the court that although the offences were so serious only a custodial sentence would apply, any compensation would only be paid to the workers involved if Blakeney continued to work.
It was agreed in court that a net profit of more than £700,000 had been earned from his criminal activity but only £12,801 could be found in his bank accounts. Blakeney failed to provide statements from a bank account in Saudi Arabia as requested by the court.
Blakeney is employed overseas in Jordan - away from his wife and family - and is earning £5,000 a month, the court heard.
The court order means he must now pay £15,000 per year - the equivalent to three months’ pay - for the next three years to compensate the dairy workers. He must also surrender a car he bought for his teenage son as it was bought from the proceeds of his crimes and is considered a ‘tainted gift’.
Speaking after the hearing last Friday, GLA chief executive Paul Broadbent said he did not think the ‘punishment fits the crime’.
Mr Broadbent said: “The only comfort I take is the fact the man who made deductions from these vulnerable workers’ wage packets will now have 25 per cent of his own money taken over the next three years to compensate those he exploited.
“He deliberately broke the law in order to profit from the exploitation of workers and his actions allowed him to undercut others, gaining an unfair advantage over businesses operating legitimately in a highly competitive industry.”