31 January 2024, 5:10pm
Melbourne man jailed for forced labour
A Templestowe man has been sentenced to three years and six months’ imprisonment for forced labour offences, after coercing a victim to work 14-hour days for two consecutive years under threats of deportation.
The AFP began investigating the matter in August 2017, after receiving a referral from Anti-Slavery Australia (ASA) relating to the forced labour of an Iranian national.
The victim started employment at a Box Hill confectionery business in 2015, where he was forced by the owner to work 14-hour shifts without any breaks.
The investigation identified the owner had promised the victim he would help him to secure a visa to remain in Australia, while also making threats to report the victim and his family to the authorities for working illegally.
During his first year of employment, the victim was only permitted a single day off to rest.
The AFP investigation also identified the victim was not paid for his first three months of employment and was later paid $10 per hour, but the payments were inconsistent.
On several occasions, the victim and his wife also performed work outside of the commercial business for the offender, including domestic duties such as cleaning and gardening at the business owner’s home.
The business owner – who was also a medical practitioner - supplied the victim with painkillers to force him to continue working and endure the poor working conditions.
In September 2017, the AFP executed multiple search warrants at the man’s Templestowe home, business address and a medical clinic where he worked.
Police seized electronic devices, documents and medical records for further investigation, which led to the man’s arrest in January, 2018.
The victim was referred to the Red Cross Support for Trafficked People Program (STPP).
The man, 50, was found guilty in the Melbourne County Court on 30 October, 2023, to the following charges:
- Causing a person to enter into or remain in forced labour, contrary to section 270.6A(1) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth); and
- Conducting a business involving forced labour, contrary to section 270.6A(2) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).
The man was sentenced on Tuesday (30 January, 2024) to three years and six months’ imprisonment for each of the two charges he faced.
The sentences were ordered to be served concurrently with a non-parole period of 18 months.
AFP Detective Superintendent Bernard Geason said the AFP took a victim-centric approach when dealing with all human trafficking matters and placed the safety, health and welfare of victims of forced labour as a top priority.
“Criminals can generate hundreds of thousands of dollars profiting off vulnerable individuals by using threats, coercion and deception,” Det-Supt Geason said.
“Some victims of forced labour may also view their new working conditions as preferable to those in their country of origin – even though the conditions are extremely exploitative.
“Reporting forced labour is an important step to ensure the safety of victims and protect them from further abuse and exploitation.
“Signs a person may be a victim include being in debt bondage, poor working conditions, and acts of physical and psychological abuse.
“We urge individuals to be aware of the indicators of forced labour and report anything that may seem suspicious.”
If you suspect that you or another person is experiencing, or is at risk of, forced labour, call 131 AFP (237) or report it via the AFP website. If you have immediate concerns for your safety, the safety of another person, or there is an emergency, dial Triple Zero (000).