Landlord made tenants work in takeaway without pay, court told
Hargit Bariana denies eight modern slavery charges relating to six complainants.
An alcoholic has told a court his landlord made tenants work for hours in his takeaway without pay, but he was given leftovers to eat, bottles of spirits and Valium.
Hargit Bariana, 46, removed one tenant’s belt and shoes and made him walk to work barefoot at his pizza shop in Blyth, Northumberland, a jury was told.
Newcastle Crown Court has heard how Bariana, also known as Barry or Harry, exploited local men and threatened or beat them if they did not comply.
He denies eight modern slavery charges relating to six complainants, robbery and supplying Diazepam between 2010 and 2016.
One alleged victim, who cannot be identified, told the court he moved into Bariana’s property after being freed from prison.
Housing benefit of £76 a week paid for the room and he was required to pay an extra £20.
The day after he moved in, the witness said he was sent to paint a ceiling at Bariana’s pizza shop.
The man, in his 40s, said: “We worked all through the night.
“We were sent to Sunderland and helped to strip his other takeaway, we worked overnight.”
Although he expected payment for the work, none came, he said.
The witness said he ended up working in Antonio’s takeaway in Blyth, opening and closing the shop, serving chips and making pizzas.
The man, who has more than 100 criminal convictions on his record, was asked if they were fed.
He replied: “Basically leftovers, if I wanted something during the day I could.”
The witness said he worked more or less every day for around five months and was not paid but received a bottle of spirits every night.
Bariana even gave him “a lot of abuse” for attending a funeral, he told the court.
Giving evidence from behind a screen, the man said another tenant was “hoyed in the bath”, had his belt and shoes removed and was told to walk a mile, barefoot, to work.
The man also said Bariana gave him two Valium tablets every night so he could sleep.
Christopher Knox, prosecuting, asked the complainant why he worked for nothing.
“I was living under his roof, I had to,” he replied.
Tom Finch, defending, suggested the witness was happy to do “odd jobs” during the day as it kept his mind off drink.
The witness replied: “Refitting a shop was an odd job?
“I wouldn’t say serving, opening and closing up was an odd job.”
Mr Finch said: “If you hadn’t been pottering around in the shop you would have been on the booze.”
The witness replied: “Obviously, I’m an alcoholic.”
The witness agreed he signed a document while he stood at a bus stop in around October last year which said: “I have no intention of going to court and Mr Bariana looked after me when I was homeless.
“I came to the shop of my own accord to help him as he had helped me loads.
“I have never seen him sell anything illegal as he is very anti-drugs.”
When asked about the document, the witness said he just signed it without knowing what it said, adding: “I couldn’t write that, I couldn’t even read it.”
Bariana, of North Farm Cottages, Bebside, Blyth is also accused with Denise Lillico, 51, of Dalton Crescent, Byker, Newcastle, with supplying class C drugs.
The trial continues.