Chesterfield man denies modern slavery charges over 'forced labour' at car wash
Car wash employees were “burned” by chemicals and “compelled to work long hours in bad conditions for little pay” during alleged exploitation after being transported from abroad, a court has heard.
Defrim Paci, aged 42, his 37-year-old brother Jetmir Paci from Chesterfield and Sitar Ali, aged 33, all stand accused of modern slavery crimes committed against Romanian nationals at Shiny, on Warwick Road in Carlisle, Cumbria, during 2016 and 2017.
Prosecutor Martin Reid told a jury at Carlisle crown court: “This case is all about forced labour and arranging for people to come to the UK with a view to their being exploited.”
Defrim Paci, of Windmill Close, Sutton-in-Ashfield, “operated at the top of the conspiracy” which centred on the Carlisle car wash, alleged Mr Reid.
Defrim’s brother, Jetmir, is said to have been involved in building work at the site, along with the transportation of staff. The city business was managed by Ali, whose responsibilities included daily treatment of staff, their wages and payment for their transport to this country, plus their accommodation and rent collection.
Defrim Paci and Jetmir Paci, of Minimum Terrace, Chesterfield, both told police when interviewed they had no roles in the operation of Shiny Carlisle.
“It is the prosecution case that the circumstances created by the defendants led to the freedom of these workers effectively being over-ridden,” Mr Reid alleged, “and that they were compelled to work long hours in bad conditions for little pay, their labour being exploited for the benefit of the defendants.”
Several workers, said the prosecutor, had identity cards taken away until travel cost debt was repaid; and were required to live in “very dirty” insect-infested multi-occupancy accommodation in Carlisle where rats were also seen.
Some described having no breaks, of having skin on their face and body “burned” by cleaning chemicals, and of receiving no protective clothing. One had said: “They treated me the same like they would do with a slave.”
The Paci brothers and Ali each deny two charges. One alleges conspiracy to require others to perform forced or compulsory labour at Shiny in Carlisle; the other alleges conspiracy to facilitate travel with a view to exploitation. Ali further denies possessing criminal cash.
Giving evidence, one man spoke of working up to seven days a week, starting at 8am and finishing at 7pm on all days except Sunday. There was time off for lunch and breaks when the car wash was not busy, but the man recalled: ”There were also times when I took a lunch break at five in the afternoon.”
Of Defrim Paci’s likely defence to the charges, Mr Reid said: “He accepts that he had an interest in the site at Warwick Road and that he was friends with Sitar Ali. But the Crown understands his case to be that he was not in charge of the business, nor was he involved in the management or day to day running of the business.”
And of Jetmir Paci, he said: “He says that he was friends with Sitar Ali and that while he carried out some building work for Mr Ali, he (Jetmir Paci) had never been responsible for the management of any car wash.”
Ali, of Adelaide Street, Carlisle, also denies any wrongdoing.
The trial, which is expected to last around six weeks, continues.