Squalid living conditions exposed in 'slave labour' trial

Squalid living conditions exposed in 'slave labour' trial

INHUMANE conditions in which ‘slave labour’ workers lived while working for a Ravensthorpe bed firm have been exposed.

Squalid homes across West Yorkshire could house up to 50 people employed at Kozee Sleep at a time.

Details came as prosecutors continued setting out a human trafficking case in a Leeds Crown Court trial expected to last 10 weeks.

The company’s owner Mohammed Rafiq, 60, of Thorncliffe Road, Staincliffe, and two other men deny the charges.

They are Mohammed Patel, 40, of Carr Side Crescent, Batley, and Mohammed Dadhiwala, 46, of Upper Mount Street, Batley Carr.

Christopher Tehrani QC told a jury how worker Robert Bodo came to Batley from Hungary in January 2010. Mr Bodo was taken to live in a property called Gothic House where 40 to 50 people were already living.

Inspectors found the house in a “horrendous state” and issued a prohibition notice, after which Mr Bodo was moved. He worked for Kozee Sleep for three-and-a-half years and did 60 hours a week or had to do extra work elsewhere.

He was paid £10 every Friday by Janos Orsos, who it is alleged supplied workers to Kozee Sleep and subsidiary Layzee Sleep.

When Mr Bodo tried to leave he found he couldn’t  as Orsos had his bank and national insurance cards.

Mr Tehrani next told of Mark Kovacs, who came to the UK from Hungary in January 2013.

He lived in Bradford for four months in a house occupied by between 25 and 42 people at a time. Mr Kovacs, who worked 8am to 7pm on weekdays at Kozee Sleep, moved to a three-bedroom flat in Ravensthorpe where 30 people lived.

People slept anywhere they could – in beds, bunk-beds, on mattresses, on the table or on the floor.

At weekends Mr Kovacs worked for free for Orsos from 9am to 6pm or 7pm doing house renovations, painting and gardening.

Mr Tehrani said Mr Kovacs “escaped Mr Orsos’s clutches” with help from the anti-slavery charity Hope for Justice.

A third man, unemployed Josef Barheli, met Orsos in Hungary and was then brought to the UK. Orsos told Mr Barheli he would receive money and be given accommodation and food.

“However, upon moving into the property he found that there was 24 other men living in it and he had to share a bedroom with 11 other people. They slept in bunk beds,” Mr Tehrani said.

He added: “Mr Barheli later complained to Janos Orsos that the conditions were inhumane, but Janos Orsos told him “that’s just the way it is”.”

The court heard Mr Barheli worked packing springs at Layzee Sleep in Batley in the summer of 2011.

He worked from 8am to between 6pm and 7pm from Monday to Friday for £10 a week plus a tobacco ration.

Mr Barheli, it was said, injured his left leg in an accident at work during the following year.

The firm did not record the incident but gave him £15,000 compensation – of which Orsos took a ‘cut’ of £10,000.

Ethical audits by firms including John Lewis and Next up to May 2014 did not identify the problems.

That month Orsos, 43, formerly of Lascelles Road, Heckmondwike, was jailed for five years for people trafficking.

Mr Tehrani said: “The prosecution submit that the three defendants were involved with Janos Orsos and his human trafficking organisation to source them cheap slave labour to work at Kozee Sleep and Layzee Sleep factories.

“The prosecution case is that the three defendants were aware of the circumstances of the Hungarian nationals who were working at these sites and went along with their exploitation as a slave workforce for their own and others’ gain.”

Orsos was paid £3 an hour for the men he supplied – still well below the minimum wage, but massively more than made its way to them.

The trial continues.

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