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Factory owner who used 'slave workforce' to be sentenced

Published 12/02/2016

Factory owner Mohammed Rafiq was found guilty of conspiracy to traffic at Leeds Crown Court
Factory owner Mohammed Rafiq was found guilty of conspiracy to traffic at Leeds Crown Court

A factory owner who employed large numbers of Hungarians as a "slave workforce" in a bed-making firm which supplied retailers like John Lewis, Next and Dunelm Mill will be sentenced later today.

Mohammed Rafiq was found guilty of conspiracy to traffic at Leeds Crown Court last month. Police believe he is the first company boss to be convicted of people trafficking offences in the UK.

A jury was told how an investigation into Kozee Sleep, based in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, and its subsidiary Layzee Sleep, based in Batley, began after two Hungarians, Janos Orsos and Ferenc Illes, were arrested over human trafficking allegations.

Large numbers of Hungarian men were employed at Rafiq's Kozee Sleep factory, supplied to them by Orsos.

Rafiq's trial jury was told how Rafiq knew Orsos's organisation would source him "cheap slave labour to work at Kozee Sleep and Layzee Sleep factories".

Prosecutors said Rafiq was "aware of the circumstances of the Hungarian nationals who were working at these sites and went along with their exploitation as a slave workforce".

The court also heard how ethical audits by leading high street retailers failed to spot what was going on.

The men were promised that good wages, housing and food would be provided in the UK but, once in West Yorkshire, they found themselves living in shared, cramped and squalid accommodation with a large number of others.

They were made to work long hours, working anything between 10 to 16 hours per day, five to seven days per week.

Rafiq, 60, of Thorncliffe Road, Staincliffe, denied a single count of conspiracy to traffic individuals within the UK.

Janos Orsos and Ferenc Illes were jailed for five years and three years respectively in 2014 after admitting people trafficking offences.

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