THREE men accused of “modern slavery” crimes and the “exploitation” of foreign workers at a Carlisle car wash have gone on trial.
The city’s crown court heard allegations today (TUES) that Romanian nationals transported to the UK were treated “like prisoners” while employed for little pay at the Shiny site, Warwick Road, during 2016 and 2017.
Workers were allegedly deprived of breaks despite working up to 11 hours a day, six days a week, and one spoke of being left with a weekly wage of just £10 after deductions for rent and electricity were applied. It is said staff weren’t provided with clothing to protect them from car wash cleaning chemicals, were housed in “dirty” rat- and insect-infested multi-occupancy rented property in central Carlisle and prevented from leaving after identity cards were taken away.
One worker told police: “They treated me the same like they would do with a slave.”
It is alleged Defrim Paci, 40; his 35-year-old brother Jetmir Paci; and Sitar Ali, 31, had a “collective interest and involvement” in the car wash, and were involved in “forced labour”, and “arranging for people to come to the UK with a view to their being exploited”.
Defrim Paci, of Windmill Close, Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, is alleged by the prosecution to have “operated at the top of the conspiracy”, but denies any wrongdoing.
Jetmir Paci, of Minimum Terrace, Walton Walk, Boythorpe, Derbyshire, admits carrying out some building work at the site, but denies having any management responsibilities.
Sitar Ali accepts he ran the car wash but denies exploiting workers, telling police in an interview he “treated staff well”.
Opening the case, prosecutor Martin Reid told jurors that workers’ evidence would be presented during the trial, alleging: “It is the prosecution case that the circumstances created by the defendants led to the freedom of the people that you are going to hear from effectively being over-ridden, and that they were compelled to work long hours, in bad conditions, for little pay.
“In short their liberty, their work was being exploited for the benefit of the defendants.”
All three defendants deny two charges alleging conspiracy to require persons to perform forced and compulsory labour; and conspiracy to arrange or facilitate the travel of Romanian nationals to the UK with a view to exploitation.
Ali, of Adelaide Street, Carlisle, denies a further charge alleging the possession of criminal property – namely cash. The trial – which is due to last up to six weeks – continues.