Leeds & West Yorkshire

Batley bed firm boss jailed over 'slave workforce'

Mohammed Rafiq, 60, was found guilty at Leeds Crown Court
Image caption Mohammed Rafiq was found guilty of conspiracy to traffic following a trial at Leeds Crown Court

A factory owner who ran his bed-making business on a "slave workforce" of men paid as little £10 a day has been jailed for two years and three months.

Mohammed Rafiq, 60, employed large numbers of Hungarians at his firm Kozee Sleep and its subsidiary Layzee Sleep, which supplied retailers like John Lewis, Next and Dunelm Mill.

Police said the men had "no contract, no rights and were exploited terribly".

Rafiq, of Thorncliffe Road, Batley, was convicted of conspiracy to traffic.

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An investigation into Rafiq's businesses in Dewsbury and Batley found he had knowingly employed men trafficked into the UK by Hungarian nationals Janos Orsos and Ferenc Illes for about two years.

At trial, the jury heard Rafiq knew Orsos's organisation would source him "cheap slave labour" and he "went along with their exploitation as a slave workforce".

'Hideous exploitation'

The jury also heard how ethical audits by leading high street retailers failed to spot what was going on.

The men were promised good wages, housing and food if they travelled to the UK but found themselves living in shared, cramped and squalid accommodation.

Jailing Rafiq at Leeds Crown Court, judge Christopher Batty said Orsos was a "ruthless gangmaster" who preyed on his countrymen, but that his "hideous exploitation" was only possible with the help of businessmen like him.

He said: "You accepted the cheap labour that he found you regardless of how they were being treated. I'm satisfied you did nothing to help, you did not care."

Image copyright West Yorkshire Police
Image caption The men were forced to live in a cramped two-bedroom terraced house
Image copyright West Yorkshire Police
Image caption Police said the conditions the men were forced to live in had led to some suffering with physical and psychological problems

Det Insp Andy Leonard, from West Yorkshire Police, said the men had been "controlled heavily" by the traffickers.

"They had very little money, they were not allowed out and they were transported to and from the workplace.

"They worked long hours, they worked seven days a week, up to 15 or 16 hours a day, every single day of the week for little or no pay.

"They had no contract, no rights and were exploited terribly."

He said Orsos had been paid £200 per week for each worker but would only give the men £10 each, leaving them "totally helpless and totally controlled".

Image copyright West Yorkshire Police
Image caption Ferenc Illes (left) and Janos Orsos were jailed in 2014 for human trafficking offences

One man who was trafficked to the UK and put to work in Rafiq's factory said: "I could not comprehend how they could do this. There were people there who had been living there in abject poverty, struggling for three or four years."

Orsos and Illes were jailed for five years and three years respectively in 2014 after admitting people trafficking offences.

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