A Bangladesh origin couple in New Zealand, who ran a sweets-making business in Auckland, have been jailed for exploiting migrant workers from Bangladesh.
Mohammed Atiqul Islam and Nafisa Ahmed were jointly charged by Immigration New Zealand (INZ) with several offences, including deceptively arranging the entry of two Bengali nationals into the country, reports New Zealand Herald newspaper today.
The couple, both New Zealand citizens, were also charged but found not guilty at a lengthy Auckland District Court trial of human trafficking.
It was one of only a handful human trafficking prosecutions in New Zealand’s legal history.
Atiqul, a company director in his late 30s, was found guilty on 10 charges of exploitation and seven other immigration related offences and was sentenced to four years and five months’ imprisonment.
He was found guilty of a further three charges of attempting to pervert the course of justice, New Zealand Herald reported.
Nafisa, an accountant in her mid-30s, was jointly found guilty of seven exploitation charges relating to five victims and was jailed for two years and six months.
The pair’s offences were uncovered after two of the chefs at Royal Sweets Café, also known as Royal Bengal Café, complained to New Zealand authorities about the conditions imposed on them.
The chefs also said their passports were also confiscated immediately after they arrived in New Zealand from Bangladesh after responding to advertisements for work in Bengali newspapers.
Judge Brooke Gibson, who passed the order, said the chefs had “suffered grievously”, according to the New Zealand Herald report.
Working long hours, the employees at the café were paid just $6 an hour, and were not paid for all of the hours they worked for or any holiday pay for two years, the court heard.
Those employees on temporary visas were also encouraged by Atiqul and Nafisa to breach their visa conditions by working more hours than stipulated by the law.
Crown Prosecutor Jacob Parry said some of the victims suffered swollen legs and hands.
One of the victims thought they might die from overwork, while another said they would not have to suffer such long working hours in Bangladesh, he said quoting the workers, the New Zealand Herald report read.
“There is an attitude for the health of the business over the health of the workers,” Parry said.
Both Atiqul and Nafisa, who have a young son together, were aware of New Zealand’s minimum wage laws and were university educated people who have worked in the country for several years, Judge Gibson said.
“The evidence showed the couple’s exploitation was calculated and premeditated and was conducted for commercial gain,” he said.
Judge Gibson also said it was a “selfish manipulation of people, largely from your own community”.
“The jury rightly found you guilty,” he said. “In some ways you were shamelessly so.”