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Thursday, 17 May 2018

Controlling takeaway boss convicted for enslaving very vulnerable tenants

Written by Tom Wilkinson

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

'ABHORRENT' LANDLORD CONTROLLED SLAVE WORKER BY REMOVING SHOES

An "abhorrent" landlord who forced alcoholic tenants to work for free in his takeaways controlled one victim by removing his shoes, a senior police officer said.

Harjit Bariana would return his footwear at the end of the working day, Chief Inspector Helena Barron said, after he was convicted of Modern Day Slavery offences.

The officer said the unscrupulous landlord exploited local British men in Blyth, Northumberland - not east Europeans whom the public may typically believe to be victims of this kind of offending.

She said: "He is a local businessman who has exploited very vulnerable members of the community at a time when they are homeless, with addictions, and he presented himself to them as offering a better life where he has offered them a house, a roof over their head and employment.

"In return he has taken their benefits off them and he has worked for no money and worked extremely long hours.

"He is an abhorrent man and his actions are despicable and he has been rightly convicted for the crimes he has committed against vulnerable members of the public.

"They were living in rooms where there were no locks on the doors so he could enter at any time, they were sparsely decorated with very little furniture or bedding, cramped conditions, little food, rubbish in the back yard and very squalid conditions.

"One of the victims was forced to remove their shoes and walk to the local business where they worked for 13 hours, six days a week, and in return they got their shoes back so they could walk home.

"Another spent six hours clearing sewage pipes with their bare hands.

"He was a legitimate businessman and he also had an illegal business selling drugs in the local community and he would use the victims to do that on his behalf."

She praised the victims for their bravery in giving evidence against Bariana, and added: "He has exploited other people's vulnerability for his own gain, it's unbelievable, but the sad fact is, this is taking place."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Northumbria Police / PA Wire.