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.”
Audacious ‘Fast & Furious-style’ truck cargo theft gang smashed by French and Romanian police
A Europol-backed operation has resulted in the dismantling of a 100-member organised crime network that is believed to have been behind scores of truck cargo thefts across Europe.
The EU’s law enforcement agency said the gang’s methods were similar to those seen in the popular Hollywood Fast & Furious film franchise, and that its members had been linked to more than 150 cargo heist crimes that are estimated to have resulted in damage worth over €10 million ($11.2 million).
As part of an international operation codenamed Arrow, 37 members of the gang were arrested in Romania by officers from the Romanian National Police (Poliția Română) and the French National Gendarmerie (Gendarmerie Nationale) yesterday.
These arrests, which took place during raids on 73 properties on Monday, came after other members of the gang were held in numerous European countries over the course of the past months.
Earlier this year, police in France arrested 10 suspected members of the gang as part of Operation Arrow, while a further 10 were held in Spain, six in the Netherlands, and an additional five in Sweden.
Members of the gang, which originated from Romania, are said to have targeted goods vehicles by driving a car in front of them in order to make them slow down while using other vehicles to hold up other nearby traffic.
Meanwhile, gang members in other vehicles would drive up to the back of the trucks they targeted before climbing out of sunroofs, opening the back of their victims’ trailers, and stealing whatever was inside.
The items the gang stole would then either be loaded into the vehicles in which they were travelling or tossed to the side of the road so as they could be picked up by thieves following in cars behind.
Oftentimes, the drivers of the vehicles the gang targeted and other road users are said to have been oblivious to thefts.
Between the years of 2016 and 2017, members of the gang were thought to have been behind the theft of goods from nine moving trucks on motorways in Romania, Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands.
In a statement on its website, Europol said: “Involved from the very onset of the investigation in December 2016, Europol brought together the different police forces involved to help them connect the dots between their own national investigations and provided analytical support before and during the action days.”
Italian police target dishonest traders exploiting public fear of the coronavirus
Police in Italy are conducting a crackdown on crooked traders looking to exploit fears over the coronavirus outbreak as the number deaths related to the disease in the country continues to rise.
The Guardia di Finanza law enforcement agency has arrested dozens of fraudsters for preying on worried members of the public by ramping up the price of basic personal hygiene products and falsely making claims that the items they sell can either protect against the disease or cure people who have already contracted it.
Italian investigators said traders and businesses with no experience in healthcare are currently being probed for fraudulently selling such products, including hardware stores, detergent dealers, auto parts sellers, direct growers and cattle breeders.
Products including ambient ionisers, masks, overalls, protective gloves, sanitising products, glasses, sanitary covers and food supplements are being misleadingly advertised to Italian consumers as items that can either protect against or cure the coronavirus, Guardia di Finanza said.
The force said the worst offenders could be jailed for two years if convicted of fraud.
Italy yesterday said it would shut every school and university in the country to stop the spread of coronavirus, and announced that it may ask for a temporary suspension of EU budget rules as it struggles to contain the disease.
Separately, Le360 reported earlier this week that police in Morocco had arrested a British lorry driver who was attempting to smuggle 100,000 medical face masks worth an estimated $3.3 million out of the country in a bid to exploit coronavirus fears in the UK.
The trucker, who was arrested in the Port of Tanger Med east of the city of Tangier, is said to have been planning to exploit a shortage of face masks in Britain by selling those he was transporting for $33 each.
Amazon said this week that it had removed one million items from its website for price gouging over coronavirus fears.
The online retail giant said items such as hand sanitiser and face masks were being traded on its platform at mark-ups of up to 2,000%.
In a statement, the company said: “There is no place for price-gouging on Amazon.
“We are disappointed that bad actors are attempting to artificially raise prices on basic need products during a global health crisis and, in line with our longstanding policy, have recently blocked or removed tens of thousands of offers.
“We continue to actively monitor our store and remove offers that violate our policies.”
UK pay-TV pirate must pay back £520,000 after selling illicit streaming boxes that provided free access to Premier League football games
A British pay-TV pirate has been ordered to hand over £520,000 ($653,000) after being found guilty of selling hundreds of illegal streaming devices that provided free access to Premier League football content.
John Dodds, who was jailed alongside accomplice Jason Richards for four and a half years in April 2018 for selling the Kodi-style boxes to hundreds of pubs and clubs in north-east of England, was told at Newcastle Crown Court on Thursday that he must pay back £521,000 within three months or face an additional five years behind bars.
Describing Dodds as an unreliable and dishonest character, a judge made the order after ruling he had concealed proceeds of his criminal activities by hiding large amounts of cash in his house and placing property assets in his daughter’s name.
As well as selling devices that provided illegal access to Premiership content, prosecutors said that Dodds and Richards regularly left their customers with faulty streaming devices that did not work.
In total, it is estimated that the pair made at least £1.5 million from the sale of the illegal streaming boxes and other television equipment.
During their criminal trial in 2018, Newcastle Crown Court was told that Dodds, who had a previous conviction for threatening a worker at satellite television broadcaster Sky, attempted to prevent evidence being discovered by hiding the keys to a car full of equipment and documentation, including a list of all his clients, several streets away from his home.
The men were initially arrested following an investigation instigated by the Premier League that was carried out in partnership with FACT, a UK intellectual property protection organisation.
Speaking after Dodds was told he must pay the money back, Premier League Director of Legal Services Kevin Plumb commented: “This is a welcome judgment and we are pleased the courts have recognised how serious an issue illegal streaming is – it is a crime which has very significant consequences.
“The defendant has now been ordered to forfeit the proceeds of his criminal activities, which we have requested go directly back to the public purse.
“The money recovered will go towards funding the courts and law enforcement agencies to help continue the brilliant work they do in helping bring people like this to justice.”
In March of Last year, three men were sentenced to a total of 17 years by a UK court after being convicted of running a pirate streaming service that offered illegal access to live Premier League football matches.
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