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Chip shop boss facing jail after forcing alcoholic tenants to work for free

Harjit Bariana exploited vulnerable men in Blyth by supplying them with drink and drugs and feeding them leftovers instead of paying them.

An unscrupulous takeaway boss will be jailed after he was convicted of enslaving alcoholic tenants and forcing them to work at his chip shop for free.

Harjit Bariana, 46, supplied drink and drugs to vulnerable tenants of his property in Blyth, Northumberland, and fed them leftovers rather than pay them for the hours they worked, often in grim conditions.

One was forced to clear out a sewage pipe without gloves, while another had his shoes removed and was made to walk to work barefoot, police said.

Bariana, known as Harry, exploited local men and threatened or beat them if they did not comply, his trial at Newcastle Crown Court heard.

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Police entering a property in Blyth, Northumberland, which belongs to Harjit Bariana (Northumbria Police/PA)

He was convicted of six modern slavery charges against four victims and supplying diazepam, with the charges relating to a period between 2014 and 2016. He was cleared of two slavery offences and of robbery.

Bariana, who has previous convictions for handling stolen goods, selling counterfeit clothes and illegal money lending, picked his victims because they were vulnerable and faced being made homeless if they did not work for him.

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The takeaway in Blyth, Northumberland used by Bariana (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Christopher Knox, prosecuting, said: “They were in practical terms people who were at a low ebb and they were people who were easily able to be coerced and forced to work.”

Bariana owned properties in central Blyth which he rented to people who received housing benefit.

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The yard of a property in Blyth, Northumberland, which belongs to Bariana (Police/PA)

He would try to charge them extra for other services, and force them to work for it.

Bariana, of Netherton Colliery, Northumberland, told police when he was arrested that the tenants were lying.

He will be sentenced next month and was remanded in custody.

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Bariana has been told to expect a prison term (Police/PA)

Proceeds of Crime Act hearings will follow.

Judge Sarah Mallett denied him bail, saying: “In the light of what I have heard about the concerns that the witnesses expressed for retribution and in the light of what I have said about the likely sentence and other consequences that will follow from that, he will have to be remanded in custody.”

Denise Lillico, 51, of Dalton Crescent, Byker, Newcastle, was cleared of supplying class C drugs.

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