The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has charged a man and woman following an investigation into alleged human trafficking and servitude at a cake business in Western Sydney.
AFP’s investigation, codenamed Operation Silverbolt, began in March 2018 after the Fair Work Ombudsman reported an allegation of mistreatment of a worker at the business.
A 59-year-old man is accused of allegedly being verbally abusive, threatening deportation, monitoring the victim’s phone calls to family offshore and taking away their passport.
“The victim was also allegedly isolated from the community, was not given a steady wage or paid for the amount of hours worked, and was allegedly reliant on the man and woman for food.”
Throughout the investigation, AFP officers gathered witness statements and evidence of the alleged exploitation and mistreatment by the business operators.
AFP’s Human Trafficking investigators executed multiple search warrants at a home and businesses in western Sydney.
The 59-year-old man and a 48-year-old woman were arrested, and investigators seized three mobile phones and multiple financial documents got further analysis.
Human trafficking, slavery and slavery-like practices such as servitude, forced labour and forced marriage are complex crimes and a major violation of human rights in Australia.
AFP Detective Inspector Jeremy Staunton told media:
“For the financial year 2020/2021, the AFP received 224 reports of human trafficking, slavery and slavery-like offences. So far this financial year the AFP has received 111 reports.”
The 48-year-old woman was charged with conducting a business involving the servitude of another person, contrary to section 270.5(2) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth). This offence carries a maximum penalty of 15 years imprisonment.
The 59-year-old man from Denham Court was also charged with conducting a business involving the servitude of another person. He was additionally charged with trafficking in persons – entry into Australia – deception as to sexual services, exploitation or confiscation, contrary to section 271.2(2) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth). This offence carries a maximum penalty of 12 years imprisonment.
The man and woman received bail under strict conditions and are scheduled to appear in Downing Centre Local Court on 14 December 2021.
Australia’s slavery, slavery-like and human trafficking offences are set out in Division 270 and 271 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995.
If you are at risk of modern slavery or know someone who may be at risk, contact Anti-Slavery Australia on (02) 9514 8115 for free and confidential legal advice or the Australian Red Cross on (03) 9345 1800.
Anyone with information on human trafficking occurring in Australia can report it to the AFP on 131 AFP (237) or via the AFP website.