Traffickers jailed for modern slavery at nail salons in Bath and Staffordshire

Modern slavery in the beauty industry is under the spotlight once more as news emerged that teenage girls were being forced to work in nail salons in Bath and Staffordshire for little or no pay.

Three members of a Vietnamese gang uncovered in Bath have been jailed for a total of nine years after police discovered they were forcing teenagers, who were also Vietnamese, to work 60 hours per week without pay and in squalid conditions, transferring them to beauty salons across England.

Thu Huong Nguyen (48), known as Jenny, who managed Nail Bar Deluxe in Bath city centre, was sentenced to five years in prison for conspiring to facilitate the movement of people for labour exploitation, keeping them in the loft of her home and in a small room in the salon, moving them between the two morning and night.

The salon was first visited by police and welfare officials in February 2016. Nguyen was not in the shop at the time and DI Tucker said one of the victims told the police that she had arrived in the UK “in the back of a lorry with cardboard boxes” via France.

The pair were taken into protective custody but soon fled back to the gang where they were then transferred to other nail salons in Cheltenham, Burton-on-Trent, Gloucester and Derbyshire.

Tucker said the teenagers didn’t understand that their treatment was abuse, believing Jenny was “kind” to them.

He said: “They find themselves in a sophisticated money-making operation but their vulnerabilities are so apparent. These girls have no footprint. They’re away from their families, working for nothing and they’re reliant on the people controlling them." 

The gang regularly changed phone numbers and dumped handsets to stop the girls being traced but the National Crime Agency (NCA) repeatedly tracked them down.

Viet Hoang Nguyen (29), known as Ken, and Giang Houng Tran, known as Susan, were also sentenced for conspiracy to require others to perform forced or compulsory labour at Stafford Crown Court. Ken was jailed for four years and Susan was given a two-year suspended sentence.

The defendants were sentenced at a hearing yesterday where Judge Michael Chambers QC said they exploited the victims for “pure economic greed”. Intelligence led them to a nail bar in Abbey Arcade in Burton-on-Trent where one of the girls was found alongside two more victims.

Detective Inspector Charlotte Tucker, who led the human trafficking operation for Avon and Somerset Police, said the girls were being “moved around as commodities” as part of a sophisticated money-making enterprise.

Tucker told The Independent: “We’ve got three people convicted out of this group, we haven’t got all of them. I think we are just scratching the surface of this.”

The teenagers are now being cared for by social services in the South West. However, investigators think these “cash-only” nail bars are just a fraction of those run by gangs. 

This time last year (January 3, 2017) news broke than more than 280 salons had been raided by immigration officers for suspected immigration offences, with nearly 100 illegal workers arrested in nail bars nationwide.

In recent months, both Crimestoppers and Babtac have launched campaigns to help clients spot the signs of modern slavery and there’s things you can do as salon owners to help tackle the issue. More information can be found here.