Victims praised as former boss jailed for three years
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