Modern slavery charges laid against Armidale man

Arrest of 40yo man

**Editor's Note: Footage and images of this operation are available via hightail.**

A NSW man, 40, will appear before Armidale Local Court tomorrow to face slavery and sexual servitude offences laid by the Australian Federal Police.

The Yarrowyck man was arrested by plain-clothed AFP tactical members about 8am on Thursday, 11 March 2021, outside an Armidale hardware store, and taken to Armidale Police Station.

AFP human trafficking investigators have been assessing allegations of potential sexual servitude offences by the man under Operation Saintes.

The investigation progressed when detailed information regarding the alleged actions of the man was provided to the AFP.

Police allege the man manipulated an alleged victim between 2012 to 2015 for a so-called "cult", and the victim was later subjected to ongoing physical, sexual and psychological abuse and degradation.

It is alleged the woman was engaged in prostitution under the man's coercive control and did not receive payment for her involvement in these activities.

It is further alleged the woman was physically assaulted by the man, and upon expressing wishes to leave, was subjected to death threats.

Inquiries to date reveal the man refers to himself as the patriarch of a group known as the 'House of Cadifor'. It is alleged the man was living with six women at a property on the outskirts of Armidale. The women had signed documents known as slavery contracts, and were in the alleged 'possession' of the man.

The AFP urges the media and the public to refrain from identifying the women involved in this matter to allow the judicial process to take place.

More than 50 AFP investigators and forensics specialists last week searched the man's property, about 30 km from Armidale.

Police seized documents, phones, cameras and computers, which will be subject to forensic analysis.

On Thursday (11 March 2021), the man was charged with three slavery and sexual servitude offences, under modern slavery laws in the Commonwealth criminal code:

  • Reduce a person to slavery, contrary to section 270.3(1)(aa) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).
  • Intentionally possess a slave, contrary to section 270.3(1)(a); and
  • Cause a person to enter/remain in servitude, contrary to section 270.5(1).

Slavery offences carry a maximum penalty of 25 years in jail, while servitude offences carry a maximum 15-year term, or 20 years for aggravated offences.

The man appeared in Armidale Local Court on Friday, where he did not apply for bail. He was remanded in custody and is due to reappear before Armidale Local Court tomorrow (Wednesday, 17 March).

The charges to date relate to one alleged victim. Investigations remain ongoing, and further charges relating to further potential victims cannot be ruled out.

The AFP acknowledges the Operation Saintes investigation has been assisted by the ABC's Four Corners, and extends thanks for their cooperation.

AFP Assistant Commissioner Justine Gough said the AFP is appealing to any victims, potential witnesses, or communities impacted by human trafficking to know there are pathways to support.

"We want the public to be aware that human trafficking, slavery and slavery-like practices are happening here in Australia, all too often without anyone in the community knowing," Assistant Commissioner Gough said.

 "Our hope is for every case we investigate, it helps others experiencing similar conditions to speak up and seek our help.

"It is up to all of us to work together to protect people who are vulnerable to the exploitative crimes of modern slavery."

If you or someone you know have information that can assist this investigation, please report it by calling 131 AFP (237) or via email to the AFP's National Operations State Service Centre (NOSSC-Client-Liaison@afp.gov.au) and quote 'Operation Saintes'.

Notes to media

Victims of human trafficking

The Support for Trafficked People Program is a key component of Australia's anti-human trafficking strategy and the National Action Plan to Combat Modern Slavery 2020-25.

The Support Program helps victims of human trafficking, slavery and slavery-like practices, and is delivered nationally by the Red Cross.

If you or someone you know is being exploited, help is available. For information and confidential advice please contact Australian Red Cross. Call (03) 9345 1800 or visit the Red Cross website.

A list of signs to identify potential human trafficking in Australia are available on the AFP website: Human trafficking & slavery indicators | Australian Federal Police (afp.gov.au).

Content trigger warnings: Support for victims of sexual assault

If you are a victim of sexual assault there are many services you can contact, depending on your needs, to report the crime, or to seek counselling and support.

  • The NSW Victims Access Line (1800 633 063) provides information, referral and support to victims of crime.
  • 1800RESPECT is the national online and telephone counselling and support service for people who have experienced, or are at risk of experiencing, sexual assault and/or domestic and family violence.

Media enquiries

AFP Media: (02) 5126 9297

National Security Hotline

Read the AFP Annual Report 2019-20

The Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation

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