A HUMAN trafficking investigator has issued a stark warning that many small businesses in Bradford will be employing slave labour.

Former Bradford police chief Allan Doherty said that employers in the food processing industry in particular needed to "clean up their act" to avoid vulnerable workers being exploited.

Mr Doherty was speaking after a factory owner, who employed large numbers of Hungarians as a "slave workforce" in a bed-making firm, was found guilty of people trafficking.

Mohammed Rafiq, 60, of Staincliffe, Dewsbury, is believed to be the first company boss in the UK to be convicted of human trafficking offences. He will be sentenced at Leeds Crown Court next month.

Mr Doherty, a former chief superintendent and divisional commander of Airedale and North Bradford Police - who helped to investigate the case while working for the anti-slavery charity Hope for Justice, said the rogue bed company boss was not unique.

"I am 100 per cent sure that other companies are employing similar dodgy tactics," he said.

"There are no ifs and buts about it, it will be happening in Bradford. We were investigating a lot of other companies in Bradford."

"Businesses in Bradford need to use this case as a wake up call. They need to clean up their act and not turn a blind eye to this issue. They need to make sure they are employing proper workers and not modern day slaves."

Mr Doherty, who now works as a modern slavery consultant with a team of investigators, claimed a lot of small businesses in Bradford would be "full of people like this, working for slave labour wages".

He said he was not aware of any companies in Bradford being prosecuted.

But he added: "We have sat and watched premises where modern day slave workers are employed around food processing in the Bradford district."

Mr Doherty said Home Office research found that only ten per cent of slave labour victims were identified.

He said the bed company had gone out of business and 180 jobs had been lost.

"If you get caught in this type of enterprise, everybody loses their jobs and the local economy suffers, before you think about the impact on individuals in the case."

Detective Chief Inspector Warren Stevenson, of the West Yorkshire Police Human Trafficking Unit, said police in Bradford were tackling the issue and urged anyone with information about slave gangs to contact the force.

"I hope this conviction demonstrates to victims of human trafficking that the police and authorities will act on their behalf and are prepared to support victims throughout the legal process to secure justice for them," said Det Ch Insp Stevenson.

"We continue to work with partners in Bradford district to tackle this dreadful crime and would urge anyone with information to contact us. You may be able to help someone who is at risk of forced labour."

Councillor Arshad Hussain, Bradford Council’s portfolio holder for neighbourhood and community safety, said the authority worked closely with other agencies to investigate cases of slave workers.

“Sadly we have already seen cases of human trafficking and modern slavery in Bradford and the council, police, Department for Work and Pensions and Hope for Justice have worked together to detect and prosecute offenders and support victims," he said.

"I am not aware of any instances currently under investigation but these crimes have been uncovered across West Yorkshire and indeed the UK so we cannot rule out the likelihood of further cases in Bradford.

"Slavery is an affront to humanity and it is hard to believe that it still exists in modern day Britain nearly two hundred years after its abolition. All workers deserve fair pay and conditions, to be treated with dignity and respect and to be at liberty to exercise their free will.

"If Mr Doherty has further evidence of slavery in Bradford then we will do everything in our power, working together with others, to help investigate and root out this evil.”