A crooked fast food restaurant owner from the north of England has been jailed for eight and a half years after being found guilty of forcing vulnerable alcoholics to work for little or no pay.
Harjit Bariana compelled his victims to toil in slave-like conditions for up to 13 hours a day in exchange for scraps of food, alcohol and drugs.
Bariana, who confiscated the men’s clothing and shoes in a bid to prevent them from fleeing, would violently assault his victims if they refused to carry out his instructions, and would routinely ply them with diazepam, Valium and cheap alcohol to keep them addicted and under his control.
The 46-year-old was jailed today after previously being convicted at Newcastle Crown Court of six modern slavery offences against four people and of supplying diazepam.
Sentencing Bariana, Judge Sarah Mallett said: “This was, in my view, commercial exploitation. Your business model was largely predicated on free labour and the most minimal expenditure into your business to extract the maximum profit.
“You exploited their vulnerability by way of addiction, you fed and encouraged their addiction to alcohol and, on occasions, drugs.”
A woman who lived close to the shared property where Bariana kept the men told the court how she would hear him screaming at them, and how he would regularly show up with large men to intimidate his victims.
One man who was forced to work in two of Bariana’s restaurants every day for five months described how he was handed scraps of food to eat at the end of each shift, along with a bottle of spirits such as whisky, which he would have to pay for.
Another victim described how he worked in Bariana’s restaurants for 10 hours a day without pay, and was given two litres of cider at the end of each shift.
Bariana forced his victims to apply for welfare benefits to pay for their rent, and used their vulnerability and need to keep a roof over their heads to bully them into doing whatever he asked of them.
The takeaway boss, who has previous convictions for dishonesty, illegal money lending, selling counterfeit goods and making threats, could now face a Proceeds of Crime hearing that could see him stripped of his assets.
During the trial, Christopher Knox, prosecuting, said: “[The defendant] exploited people who he knew were vulnerable in all cases because they were either homeless, or near homeless, they had drug or alcohol dependencies or both.
“They were in practical terms people at a low ebb and were easily bullied, coerced and forced to do work.
“Not at the end of a pitchfork or gun, but by coercion of one form or another.”
British FBI breaks up eastern European fake passport gang behind London forgery factory
The UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) has arrested two Latvians and a Ukrainian national on suspicion of being involved in the production and distribution of fake identity documents after a raid on a forgery factory in London.
NCA investigators detained the men last week after watching the handover of a number of counterfeit documents in the Hackney area of north-east London, before proceeding to carry out searches of the suspects’ addresses.
During the raids, officers uncovered a sophisticated bogus document factory, and seized a number of items, including computers, printers and other equipment used in the manufacture of counterfeits, and approximately £15,000 ($19,699) in cash.
Commenting on the success of the operation, NCA Branch Commander Mark McCormack said in a statement: “These arrests form part of an investigation into a criminal network suspected of supplying hundreds of false documents.
“These documents are a key enabler of criminality. They can be used to help people gain work or services illegally, or potentially open bank accounts for the purposes of money laundering.
“The supply and production of them can also provide a lucrative revenue stream for crime groups.”
Separately, an investigation conducted by the Daily Mail has revealed that fake and stolen EU identity cards can be ordered online for as little as £800, and delivered to buyers within three days.
The paper noted how one Facebook page it identified as part of its probe had been operating for at least three years.
One Arabic-language Facebook page offering numerous travel documents said: “We sell passports from £800 to £2,600. We are not traffickers. We’re just selling the passport and are not responsible for your travel or smuggling.”
The fraudsters behind the page, which has now been taken down, boasted that seven out of 10 of the people who buy their counterfeit documents successfully use then to get past border controls.
A spokesperson for Facebook said: “Counterfeit items are not allowed on Facebook as they violate our community standards.
“We have deleted the content and suspended the admins of the groups which violate these standards. We urge people to use our reporting tools to flag content they suspect may be illegal or violate our standards so we can remove it.”
The results of the Mail’s investigation were published as the UK Government urged British travellers to report lost or stolen passports immediately to prevent them from falling into the hands of criminals.
Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes commented: “[N]ot reporting a lost or stolen passport can have severe consequences, such as people using your identity or attempting to use your documents to try to enter the country illegally.
“That is why it is absolutely vital you report your lost or stolen passport immediately: to help law enforcement agencies prevent people from entering the UK illegally, and to protect yourself from becoming a victim of identity crime.”
Scores of online airline ticket fraudsters arrested across Europe
Law enforcement agencies have arrested 141 people during a Europol-backed crackdown on internet airline fraud ticket.
During the four-day effort, which took place over last weekend, the eleventh Global Airport Action Days (GAAD) initiative targeted criminals suspected of traveling with airline tickets bought using stolen, compromised or fake credit card details.
The operation resulted in the identification of 334 suspicious transactions, which led to the launch of a number of police investigations.
According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the airline industry loses over $1 billion every year to the fraudulent online purchases of flight tickets.
Millions of innocent cardholders are also affected when their stolen or compromised credit card information is used to fraudulently buy airline tickets.
While the fraudulent online purchase of airline tickets is a lucrative activity for organised crime networks in and of itself, fraudulently-purchased tickets can also be used to facilitate other types of crimes, including people smuggling, illegal immigration and drug trafficking.
As well as Europol, a number of other law enforcement agencies contributed to the effort, including the Airport Communication Project (AIRCOP), which is implemented by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in partnership with Interpol and the World Customs Organisation (WCO).
Sofia Moutsou, Chair of the European Airline Fraud Working Group, commented: “Once again Europol has supported the airline industry with an excellent organisation scale in our fight against online fraud. All the representative airlines, online travel agencies, card schemes, law enforcement cooperated with Europol with the most sufficient way.
“The results are really important. We protected our reservations – we kept our flights safe and beyond all these we kept the criminals away from us, sending them where they should be. Arrested. This action has not only a financial aspect but it is a prevention campaign in many ways.”
Europol has issued advice for travellers who are keen to avoid falling victim to online airline ticket fraudsters.
The agency suggests consumers should only book a holiday directly with an airline or hotel, or through a reputable agent or tour operator.
It also recommends that travellers should thoroughly research any online travel company they are thinking of booking through, and check any website they use offers a secure payment system and the secure communication protocol (https) for the booking procedure.
“Airline fraud is not only highly lucrative for fraudsters, it creates the risk of serious criminals and terrorists traveling around the world anonymously, potentially to endanger others,” Europol Executive Director Catherine de Bolle said.
“We are striving through initiatives like this one, working hand in hand with our private partners, to disrupt criminal movements and activities.”
Italian police target organised metal thieves in EU-wide operation
Police in Italy last month led a major EU-wide crackdown on organised metal theft.
Supported by Europol, the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Training (CEPOL) and the informal Network Against Metal Theft, the operation targeted thieves in Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain and Britain.
Across the 12 countries that participated in the one-day effort, law enforcement officials ran checks on nearly 54,900 individuals, more than 42,200 vehicles, almost 8,000 environmental companies and scrap dealers, 589 border areas and 2,572 other hotspots, including harbours and rail transport sites.
The crackdown resulted in the arrest of 117 suspects alleged to have committed serious crimes, who were detained alongside more than 1,300 individuals who were convicted of minor offences and released.
Investigators identified a further 1,659 crimes, including 75 cases of theft, 60 of knowingly receiving stolen goods, 137 environmental crimes, 1,387 miscellaneous offences, and 2,763 administrative violations.
Officers seized nearly 358 tonnes of metal worth an estimated €890 000 ($1 million) during the operation, including almost 93 tonnes of copper worth around €540,000, and 983 solar panels and 140 vehicles.
In a statement, Europol said: “This action sends a strong signal from law enforcement authorities to metal theft gangs operating all over Europe and to the many scrapyards that accept all kinds of metal with ‘no questions asked’.
“The phenomenon of copper theft has taken a European dimension and it often affects companies operating in the transport, energy, and telecommunications sectors, disrupting essential public services and leading to significant economic and social repercussions and possible implications for security.”
The operation, during which investigators carried out real-time cross-checks against Europol databases, was conducted within the framework of EMPACT, an ad hoc management environment to develop activities in order to achieve pre-set goals in Europol’s fight against serious international and organised crime.
The effort involved 10 simultaneous raids across the country in the provinces of Ilfov, Teleorman and Galati.
Three suspects were arrested and a large quantity of evidence was seized during the raids, including 300kgs of iron alloy, cash and documents.
Earlier this month, China border force agents arrested 245 people on suspicion of being members of a scrap steel smuggling ring who were said to have illegally sold more than 2.4 million tones of metal to buyers across Southeast Asia.
- Labour exploitation more widespread in developed nations than thought, Global Slavery Index reveals
- Global UN-backed crackdown on illicit tobacco comes into force in September
- Irish health authority launches cocaine harm reduction campaign
- Police shoot two rhino poachers dead in South African nature reserve
- Sextortion scammers using victims’ passwords to blackmail them for watching porn
9 February 2018
9 February 2018
8 February 2018
28 November 2017
28 November 2017
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