Vic­tims praised as for­mer boss jailed for three years

The Oban Times - - News 7 - EMMA CRICH­TON ecrich­ton@oban­

THE FOR­MER owner of a Lochaber ho­tel has been sen­tenced to three years in prison af­ter be­ing found guilty of hu­man traf­fick­ing of­fences likened to ‘ mod­ern day slav­ery’.

Four Bangladeshi men were left ‘emo­tion­ally scarred’ af­ter work­ing for Sham­sul Are­fin at the Stewart ho­tel in Duror, where they were sub­jected to poor con­di­tions, low pay and forced to work out­side in freez­ing tem­per­a­tures af­ter their 47-year- old em­ployer lured them to the coun­try un­der the premise of a bet­ter life.

The vic­tims sold fam­ily valu­ables, emp­tied sav­ings and took out loans to af­ford the ‘de­posit’ Are­fin de­manded be­fore bring­ing them to the UK from Bangladesh.

When they ar­rived, their pay was re­duced to a frac­tion of what had been con­tracted and work­ing hours dra­mat­i­cally ex­ceeded what had been agreed. Although em­ployed to work in the ho­tel kitchen, the vic­tims found them­selves forced to paint the build­ing, clean rooms and cut and move logs in the ho­tel grounds in freez­ing win­ter tem­per­a­tures.

Are­fin, who had been re­manded in cus­tody since be­ing found guilty of eight charges in a five-week sher­iff and jury trial end­ing on July 3, was sen­tenced to three years in prison by sher­iff Ian An­der­son at Fort Wil­liam sher­iff court on Fri­day (July 24).

The crimes were com­mit­ted be­tween 2008 and 2010 and were in breach of the Asy­lum and Immigration act.

Sher­iff An­der­son called the charges ‘se­ri­ous and se­vere’. He added: ‘These were car­ried out for your own ben­e­fit and you ben­e­fited sub­stan­tially.

‘You have no re­morse for your ac­tions and do not un­der­stand the con­se­quences of what you have done.

‘You brought mis­ery to your em­ploy­ees, who you de­ceived and ex­ploited and there are fam­i­lies in Bangladesh who will be pay­ing for your greed for years to come.’

Vic­tims giv­ing ev­i­dence dur­ing the trial said Are­fin threat­ened to sack them if they com­plained and re­fused to re­turn the money they had paid them.

As their wages were so low the staff were un­able to re­pay the debts they had taken to pay Are­fin.

In one case the vic­tim de­scribed how money lenders in Bangladesh had threat­ened to re­move his kid­ney as a re­sult of his in­abil­ity to pay.

In­de­pen­dent anti- slav­ery com­mis­sioner, Kevin Hy­land OBE, ap­plauded the vic­tims’ brav­ery in com­ing for­ward.

He said: ‘Po­lice Scot­land and Scot­land’s pros­e­cu­tion ser­vice have demon­strated that through tenac­ity and a vic­tim­cen­tred ap­proach, it is pos­si­ble to bring a per­pe­tra­tor of this ab­hor­rent crime to jus­tice.

‘I very much hope to see more suc­cess­ful con­vic­tions and vic­tims iden­ti­fied who are re­ferred for ap­pro­pri­ate sup­port in the com­ing months in­spec­tor, Richard Baird, said the sen­tence sends a ‘clear mes­sage’ to hu­man traf­fick­ers: ‘Hu­man traf­fick­ing is a de­spi­ca­ble crime where the of­fend­ers prey on des­per­ate peo­ple who travel to the UK un­der the premise of a bet­ter life and avail­able work.

‘Sham­sul Are­fin was driven by fi­nan­cial greed and held no re­gard for the work­ing con­di­tions of those in his em­ploy­ment.

‘This was ap­par­ent by the poor con­di­tion that his vic­tims were sub­ject to through work­ing long hours at no ex­tra pay and of­ten with sub­stan­dard equip­ment and work­ing sup­plies.

‘In bring­ing this in­di­vid­ual to jus­tice we have dis­rupted, if not dis­man­tled, one more illegal en­ter­prise and hope­fully saved other po­ten­tial vic­tims from in­evitable suf­fer­ing.

‘ We’ve also sent a clear mes­sage to cur­rent and would-be peo­ple smug­glers that Po­lice Scot­land will find you and bring you be­fore the courts no mat­ter who you are or where you are from.’

CHARGES: Sham­sul Are­fin was jailed for three years for hu­man traf­fick­ing in Lochaber

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