Tyne & Wear

Slavery-accused landlord did 'a lot of good for tenants'

Hargit Bariana Image copyright PA
Image caption Hargit Bariana denies he bullied the men

A man accused of enslaving tenants and forcing them to work in his takeaways said he did them "a lot of good."

Hargit Bariana, 46, is alleged to have set them to work at his Blyth and Sunderland businesses and threatened or beat them if they did not comply.

But Mr Bariana, of Netherton Colliery, Northumberland, told Newcastle Crown Court police encouraged the men to complain about him.

He denies eight modern slavery charges, robbery and supplying Diazepam.

The charges relate to a period between 2010 and 2016, during which Mr Bariana said he had shown them compassion.

The defendant, known as Harry, told the court the tenants were alcoholics and drug users likely to have been homeless if he had not given them a place to stay at a property he owned in Blyth.

He said previous disagreements with Northumbria Police, including an accusation by officers he had stolen his own car, had prompted encouragement of the men to make complaints.

'Everyone was ok'

Asked why one of the complainants claimed he had been slapped, Mr Bariana said: "He has been told, I know he has been told, by the police."

Describing his tenants, he said: "All of them in their heart know I have done a lot of good for them.

"I used to care about them.

"I used to make sure everyone was okay, and nobody was getting bullied and they were eating and not just drinking."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Mr Bariana would force the men to work at Antonio's in Blyth, the court has heard

The trial was previously told Mr Bariana rented his property to people who received housing benefit and made them work at Antonio's in Blyth and Valentino's in Sunderland, where they would serve chips and pizzas.

It is also alleged they went unpaid, were fed "leftovers" and given Valium tablets to help them sleep.

Denise Lillico, 51, of Byker, Newcastle, is also charged with Mr Bariana in supplying class C drugs. She also denies the charge.

The trial continues.

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