Sutton man guilty of modern slavery crimes at car wash
TWO men — Including one from Sutton — have been found guilty of modern slavery crimes committed against workers at a Carlisle car wash.
During a lengthy trial at the city’s crown court, jurors heard graphic evidence about terrible conditions in which employees at Shiny, Warwick Road, were forced to carry out daily duties.
Several told of working long hours for little pay and being denied breaks when the car wash was busy during 2016 and 2017 – and not being given the freedom to take time off.
One described being left “very tired”, hungry and with just £20 in his first pay packet as he worked nine long days in a row. He was also one of several workers who complained that no protective clothing was provided, and said water had “eaten away at my feet” as it seeped through his trainers.
One worker recalled buying cheap gloves from Tesco to protect his hands from cleaning chemicals which, some employees complained, burned the skin on their face and body.
Workers also reported rat and insect infestation sightings in their “very dirty” Carlisle multi-occupancy accommodation having paid for transportation from their native Romania to north Cumbria. Travel costs and deposits were deducted from weekly pay and wage slips, where issued, understated working hours and overstate the amount of money earned.
Employees were taken a charity safe centre on May 10, 2017, when health and safety officers called at Shiny, issuing several improvement notices as police arrested suspects.
One worker later told police: “They treated me the same like they would do with a slave.”
Defrim Paci, a 42-year-old married father-of-four, was said to have “operated at the top” of the criminal enterprise, buying land and setting up a business which was then managed by Sitar Ali.
After a lengthy trial, Paci, of Windmill Close, and Ali, of Adelaide Street, Carlisle, were on Monday unanimously convicted of conspiracy to require others to perform forced or compulsory labour at Shiny; and conspiracy to facilitate travel with a view to exploitation. Jurors deliberated for almost 27 hours across six days.
Ali was also convicted of possessing criminal property after £16,000 was found in a BMW after his arrest.
Martin Reid, prosecuting, had told jurors: “It is the prosecution case that the circumstances created by the defendants led to the freedom of these workers effectively being overridden.”
Paci and Ali will be sentenced on July 30.
Barristers representing the two men made pleas for bail in the meantime, so they could put “affairs in order” ahead of sentencing which one suggested was a “significant inevitability”.
But Judge Nicholas Barker remanded both men into custody.
“I fully accept that these matters have been hanging over you for many, many years now and you have been on bail for an extended period of time,” said Judge Barker.
“However, the fact of your convictions changes the circumstances. In my judgement there is a flight risk that you have. Both of you have access to connections overseas.”
A third man, 37-year-old Jetmir Paci, was acquitted by jurors on the two conspiracy allegations he denied.