The Sunday Times has uncovered a number of scams where gangs collect clothes from the public which are intended for charities but are actually sold at second-hand clothes shops or markets in Lithuania, Poland, Germany, Bulgaria, Hungary and Ukraine.
The clothes sell for about £900 per ton and charities such as The British Heart Foundation and The Tree of Hope estimate they are losing millions of pounds each year.
The Sunday Times investigators met with two Lithuanians, one called Algis and his boss Lenny Jurkonis, from the UK Clothing Caravan Ltd (which appears to be connected to SOS Clothes Ltd) based in Essex.
They were offered a 40 ft container full of clothes – which is about 24 tons, once a month. At £1,05 per kilo that would be over £300,000 per year. The Men also explained how they would fiddle the books so no-one knew exactly how mcuh had actually been collected.
Lithuanians are getting a bad press in the UK due to publicised convictions for gun-running, people trafficking, illicit vodka, and charity scams.
There is a joke in Lithuania that the criminals joined the EU before the rest of the country. When an American colleague was robbed of a lap-top in Lithuania a few years ago the policeman taking my witness statement joked that apparently not all their criminals had gone to the UK.
Lithuanians, like Poles, have a strong work ethic, are generally well-educated, and many come to England and Ireland to work. Having visited the country many times I know how friendly and generous they can be. It’s a shame that the activities of a criminal minority damage their reputation.