Bringing Light to the Darkness of Human Trafficking (Trafficking in Persons)

Victims of an exploitative married couple had passports seized, were paid $6 an hour or less, and were made to work longer hours at an Auckland sweet shop than they did in Bangladesh.

Mohammed Atiqul Islam and his wife Nafisa Ahmed were jailed on Friday after being found guilty of exploiting temporary workers.

Auckland District Court heard one exploited worker was not given a day off for 14 months

mohammed islam
Mohammed Atiqul Islam and his wife Nafisa Ahmed were sentenced on Friday after being found guilty of exploitation of temporary workers.

Judge Brooke Gibson said the scam "unravelled" when an exploited worker enlisted the help of people at a local mosque and made his own enquiries with immigration authorities.

Bangladeshi couple Islam and Ahmed, who are New Zealand citizens, were charged with human trafficking, exploitation of temporary workers, and other immigration-related charges.

 Both were found not guilty of human trafficking. But Islam was found guilty in March of 10 exploitation charges, seven other immigration-related offences, and three charges of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Ahmed was found guilty of eight exploitation charges.

Immigration NZ previously said the exploitation charges related to five victims.

The victims were paid $6 an hour – though they weren't paid for all hours they actually worked.

Exploited workers were either not paid any holiday pay or suffered from "deliberate miscalculation of holiday pay."

Judge Gibson said some of the exploited men had to borrow money to reach New Zealand, and were made to work such long hours they could not have any social life.

"They were effectively kept away from their community."

"Neither of you express any remorse," Judge Gibson told the couple.

"You've been here for a number of years. You're both well-educated, holding university degrees."

The court heard one employee who told Ahmed he was too exhausted to come into work was told: "Well, this is a business, you can go back to Bangladesh."

The court on Friday heard a friend of Islam's filed a glowing report, claiming it was "a natural tradition in Bangladesh" to work 12-14 hours a day.

A prosecutor said that claim was an attempt to minimise Islam's offending, and one exploited worker complained "even in Bangladesh they do not work like we did."

Islam's lawyer Ron Mansfield told the court there was "no evidence of illness or anything of that kind" impacting the affected workers.

"Throughout, they were struggling financially, or the business was struggling with cashflow."

Islam and Ahmed previously owned Royal Indian Sweets and Cafe in Sandringham, which was founded in 2014 and went into liquidation in 2017.

Stuff previously reported that liquidators said the couple had insufficient assets to pay their debts when the business folded, leaving an estimated deficit of $318,000.

Islam was jailed for four years and five months.

Ahmed was jailed for two years and six months.

Immigration New Zealand spokesman Pete Devoy said he was pleased with the sentencing.

"This is a clear signal from the court that exploitation is viewed as a serious offence, and it is criminal offending we don't want in New Zealand society," Devoy said.

"This type of offending erodes the dignity of the victims ... It's an ordeal they should not have had to face," he said.

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