A 47–year-old man has been sentenced to 3 years imprisonment, having been found guilty of human trafficking.
Shamsul Arefin carried out his crimes between 2008 and 2010 when he was the owner of the Stewart Hotel near Appin in Argyll.
Arefin recruited his victims from his native Bangladesh, offering them jobs as chefs at his hotel. The victims, who were working on low wages in Bangladesh, were promised employment and a salary which they saw as an opportunity to improve their lives. They were told that they would need to pay Arefin substantial sums of money in return for the employment which, at trial, was described by the accused as a “deposit” to be returned if the victims remained in his employment for five years.
The victims sold family valuables, took loans and used their savings to raise the money.
On their arrival at the hotel, their salary was reduced to a fraction of the contracted amount. Their working hours well exceeded those stated in their contract and the men found that their duties extended beyond the kitchen, with the accused requiring them to paint the hotel, clean rooms and cut and move logs in the hotel grounds in freezing winter temperatures.
The accused threatened victims with termination of their employment when they complained and refused to return the money they had paid him.
The actual pay given to the men left them struggling 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.
In total, four men were employed and lured from Bangladesh in similar circumstances.
The crimes came to light following an investigation by the UK Border Agency and the then Northern Constabulary.
At trial the men described the how the crimes had left them emotionally scarred, still struggling with the burden of debt and separated from their families in Bangladesh.
Kath Harper, the Crown’s National Lead Prosecutor for human trafficking, said:
“Arefin’s greed had life-changing implications not just for his victims, but for their families and others who supported them.
“Human trafficking can come in many forms and as prosecutors we are committed to doing all we can do eradicate it from Scotland.
“The experts in our International Co-Operation Unit are highly experienced in obtaining evidence from overseas, and our local prosecutors continue to work closely with Police Scotland and the UK Border Agency to ensure that these sorts of crimes are identified and dealt with as quickly and effectively as possible.
“I would urge anybody who thinks they may have any information relating to human trafficking to report it to the Police, or, if they wish to remain anonymous, to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”
Kevin Hyland OBE, Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, said:
"Police Scotland and Scotland's prosecution service have demonstrated that through tenacity and a victim centred approach it is possible 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 and years.
“The victims of these particular crimes endured exploitation and abuse many thought was a distant memory of the past. This is a clear case of 'modern day slavery' and I commend the bravery of the four men who gave evidence at the trial. I hope that receiving justice in the courts assists in their journey of recovery.
“I will be working with all those involved in the fight against slavery in Scotland and would encourage anyone who is the victim of this crime to come forward and not to suffer in silence."