Defrim Paci, 42, his brother Jetmir Paci, 37 and Sitar Ali, 33, all stand accused of modern slavery crimes committed against Romanian nationals at the car wash Shiny, on Warwick Road in Carlisle during 2016 and 2017.
Carlisle Crown Court heard today how car wash employees were “burned” by chemicals and “compelled to work long hours in bad conditions for little pay” during alleged exploitation after being transported from abroad.
Mr Paci is the sole director of the Harrogate Hand Carwash on Sykes Grove. The charges do not relate to this business.
Prosecutor Martin Reid told the jury:
“This case is all about forced labour and arranging for people to come to the UK with a view to their being exploited.”
Defrim Paci, of Windmill Close, Sutton-in-Ashfield, “operated at the top of the conspiracy” which centred on the Carlisle car wash, alleged Mr Reid.
Defrim’s brother, Jetmir, is said to have been involved in building work at the site, along with the transportation of staff.
The city business was managed by Ali, whose responsibilities included daily treatment of staff, their wages and payment for their transport to this country, plus their accommodation and rent collection.
Mr Reid alleged:
“It is the prosecution case that the circumstances created by the defendants led to the freedom of these workers effectively being over-ridden, and that they were compelled to work long hours in bad conditions for little pay, their labour being exploited for the benefit of the defendants.”
Several workers, said the prosecutor, had identity cards taken away until travel cost debt was repaid; were required to live in “very dirty” rat and insect-infested multi-occupancy accommodation in Carlisle; and were “faced with having only £20 in their pockets from a week’s work of 11 hours a day, six days a week”.
Some described having no breaks, of having skin on their face and body “burned” by cleaning chemicals, and of receiving no protective clothing. One recalled buying some gloves for £2 from Tesco. Another said:
“They treated me the same like they would do with a slave.”
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The Paci brothers and Ali each deny two charges. One alleges conspiracy to require others to perform forced or compulsory labour at Shiny in Carlisle; the other alleges conspiracy to facilitate travel with a view to exploitation. Ali further denies possessing criminal cash.
Jurors were told, in addition to witness testimony, they would consider a wealth of documentary evidence. This includes mobile phone data collected during the police investigation, details of two immigration visits to the car wash and searches of all the defendants’ homes.
Defrim Paci and Jetmir Paci, of Minimum Terrace, Chesterfield, both told police when interviewed they had no roles in the operation of Shiny Carlisle.
Of Defrim Paci, Mr Reid said:
“The Crown understands his case to be that he was not in charge of the business, nor was he involved in the management or day to day running of the business.”
Ali, of Adelaide Street, Carlisle, also denies any wrongdoing.
The trial, which is expected to last around six weeks, continues.