Workers allegedly forced to work without pay on a fishing vessel

These offences carry a maximum penalty of 20 years, 15 years, and nine years’ imprisonment respectively.

A Northern Territory man appeared in a Queensland court on 15 February 2024 on new aggravated servitude and deceptive recruiting charges in connection to the alleged illegal treatment of workers on board a fishing vessel.

The AFP extradited the Humpty Doo man, 47, from Darwin on 14 February 2024 to face the Cairns Magistrates’ Court today charged with multiple counts of:

  • Causing a person to enter or remain in servitude, contrary to section 270.5(1) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth);
  • Conducting a business involving the servitude of another person, contrary to section 270.5(2) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth); and
  • Deceptive Recruiting for labour or services, contrary to section 270.7 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).

Police arrested the man in Darwin on Tuesday and he appeared in court the Darwin Magistrates’ Court yesterday where an extradition order was granted by the court.

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The defendant had already been facing multiple charges relating to alleged forced labour and servitude offences. These charges relate to an AFP investigation launched in August 2023, following information from Queensland Police about two alleged victims rescued from a fishing vessel.

The man had allegedly used an online job board to advertise for deckhands and coxswains to work on his fishing boat.

The workers alleged they were forced to work without pay, were provided with little food and water, and held on the man’s fishing vessel against their will.

Detective Inspector Mary Bolton said the AFP urged people with information related to this investigation to contact police.

“Recognising and reporting these offences is an important step to ensure the safety and welfare of victims and prosecute those who have exploited and caused them harm.”

Det-Inspector Bolton added:

“The AFP is urging anyone who has been through this experience, or knows someone who has, to please come forward and contact the AFP on 131 237 or use the AFP’s confidential online form.”

The AFP arrested and charged the man in December 2023.

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These offences carry a maximum penalty of 20 years, 15 years, and nine years’ imprisonment respectively.

The man was granted bail with strict conditions during today’s hearing and his next appearance is scheduled for 20 March 2024.

The investigation is ongoing.

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