A FORMER hotel owner has been sent to prison for three years after trafficking workers from Bangladesh.
Shamsul Arefin, 47, carried out his crimes between 2008 and 2010 when he was the owner of the Stewart Hotel near Appin in Argyll.
He was found guilty of breaching the Asylum and Immigration Act by recruiting his victims from his native Bangladesh, and offering them jobs as chefs at his hotel.
The victims, who were working on low wages in Bangladesh, were promised employment and a salary which they saw as an opportunity to improve their lives.
They were told that they would need to pay Arefin substantial sums of money in return for the employment which, at trial, was described by the accused as a “deposit” to be returned if the victims remained in his employment for five years.
The victims sold family valuables, took loans and used their savings to raise the money. On their arrival at the hotel, their salary was reduced to a fraction of the contracted amount.
Their working hours well exceeded those stated in their contract and the men found that their duties extended beyond the kitchen, with Arefin requiring them to paint the hotel, clean rooms and cut and move logs in the hotel grounds in freezing winter temperatures.
Fort William Sheriff Court heard how Arefin threatened his victims with termination of their employment when they complained and refused to return the money they had paid him.
In total, four men were employed and lured from Bangladesh in similar circumstances.
The crimes came to light following an investigation by the UK Border Agency and the then Northern Constabulary. During the trial, the men described how the crimes had left them emotionally scarred, still struggling with the burden of debt and separated from their families in Bangladesh.
Kath Harper, the Crown Office’s lead prosecutor for human trafficking, said: “Arefin’s greed had life-changing implications not just for his victims, but for their families and others who supported them.
“Human trafficking can come in many forms and as prosecutors we are committed to doing all we can do eradicate it from Scotland.”
Kevin Hyland, the UK’s independent anti-slavery commissioner, added: “Police Scotland and Scotland’s prosecution service have demonstrated that through tenacity and a victim-centred approach, it is possible to bring a perpetrator of this abhorrent crime to justice.
“The victims of these particular crimes endured exploitation and abuse many thought was a distant memory of the past. This is a clear case of modern day slavery.