Factory workers’ living conditions were ‘inhumane’, court hears

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One of the Hungarian nationals allegedly employed as part of a slave workforce at defunct Dewsbury bed business Kozee Sleep complained his living conditions were “inhumane”, a jury was told today.

Mohammed Rafiq, the former owner of the business, and two of his staff, Mohammed Patel and Mohammed Dadhiwala are standing trial at Leeds Crown Court accused of human trafficking offences linked to the exploitation of an unspecified number of workers brought to the UK from Hungary.

Concluding the opening of the prosecution on Thursday afternoon, Christopher Tehrani QC described the testimony one of the 16 complainants who will give evidence during the trial.

The court was told that the man, Josef Barheli, had been left unemployed in Hungary after serving time in prison for unpaid fines in 2011. He then met Janos Orsos, who was working for Kozee Sleep as an unofficial agent recruiting men from the country to work at the Kozee Sleep factory in Dewsbury and at its sister premises, Layzee Sleep in Batley, and he was subsequently brought to the UK and moved into a house in West Yorkshire.

Mr Tehrani said: “Janos Orsos told Mr Barheli that he would receive money and be provided with 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 Barheli later complained to Janos Orsos that the conditions were inhumane, but Janos Orsos told him “That’s just the way it is.”

The jury heard that Barheli was put to work packing springs at Layzee Sleep in the summer of 2011 and would labour from 8am to between 6pm and 7pm from Monday to Friday for £10 per week plus a tobacco ration.

When Barheli injured his left leg in an accident at work during the following year, the company did not record the incident in accordance with health and safety regulations but gave him £15,000 in compensation. However, Orsos, who it was said personally handed the enveloped wages to the Hungarian workers at the end of each week, claimed a cut of £10,000 for himself after telling the victim he had arranged the compensation himself.

The three defendants deny the charges and are expected to claim they were unaware of the alleged exploitation of the workers.

On Friday the jury of six men and six women will visit the two factories involved in the case.

The trial continues.