• Thursday, Apr 15, 2021
  • Last Update : 01:16 pm

Bangladeshi-origin man in NZ who forced staff into 'economic slavery' refused parole

  • Published at 04:48 pm November 22nd, 2020
Mohammed Atiqul Islam New Zealand
Mohammed Atiqul Islam in the Auckland District Court Twitter

Atiqul was sentenced to 4 years and 5 months for his offences and last month the Parole Board said he was still a risk to the community

A New Zealand man of Bangladesh origin, jailed for exploiting migrant workers after forcing staff in his Auckland sweet shop to work for up to 68 hours a week for a pittance, has been refused parole.

Mohammed Atiqul Islam and his wife Nafisa Ahmed, both New Zealand citizens, paid their staff as little as $6 an hour and confiscated passports, reports The New Zealand Herald.

The staff said they thought they "might die from overwork." 

They were jointly charged by Immigration New Zealand (INZ) and acquitted on human trafficking charges. 

Atiqul, in his late 30s, was found guilty of 10 charges of exploitation and 7 other immigration-related offences. He was found guilty of a further 3 charges of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Atiqul was sentenced to 4 years and 5 months for his offences and last month the Parole Board said he was still a risk to the community.

Nafisa, an accountant in her mid 30s, was jointly found guilty of 7 exploitation charges relating to the 5 victims. She was jailed for 2 years and 6 months in May 2019, and released on parole in May 2020. 

Board panel convenor Judge Jane Lovell Smith said: "At the time of sentencing the Judge noted that Mr Islam did not take any responsibility for his offending neither did he express any remorse.

"The pre-sentence report noted that Mr Islam's risk of psychological harm to others, particularly employees, was high. Mr Islam's security classification is minimum and there are no issues with his conduct in prison," Smith said.

Smith said Atiqul had "excellent family support" and he told the board he wanted to be released so he could be with his 12-year-old son.

"He told the board that he was very sorry for the whole situation but he also described the punishment as being very severe given he was removed from his family," she said. 

Smith refused to make his wish come true.

"The board found Mr Islam's expressions of remorse to be unconvincing," she said. 

"The judge described his offending as shameless exploitation of the employees. His actions were clearly further personal gain and his victims were very vulnerable.

"Without assistance with planning an appropriate safety plan, Mr Islam's risk remains undue. Parole is declined."

'Suffered grievously'

Smith said the board would support Atiqul moving to self-care in the prison and some sort of employment including the Release to Work program.

Atiqul will be seen again in June 2021 and Smith said the board expected him to be able to provide a "full and appropriate" safety plan.

Atiqul and Nafisa's offending were uncovered after two of the chefs at the Royal Sweets Cafe, also known as the Royal Bengal Cafe, complained to New Zealand authorities about the conditions imposed on them.

The chefs' passports were also confiscated after they arrived in New Zealand from Bangladesh after responding to advertisements for work in Bengali newspapers.

Judge Brooke Gibson said the chefs had "suffered grievously" in a form of economic slavery.

Working long hours, Atiqul and Nafisa's employees were paid just $6 an hour and were not paid for all of the hours they worked or any holiday pay, the court heard.

Employees on temporary visas were also encouraged by them to breach their visa conditions by working more hours.

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