"they weren’t paid for their time."
Two cheesecake shop moguls in Australia have been accused of keeping a Pakistani employee as a slave.
The wealthy couple, Abid Shah and Aeisha Shah, were arrested on November 11, 2021, at their $4 million mansion in Sydney’s west.
The couple promised to give the man a better life in Australia.
However, they made him work excessive hours, confiscated his passport and threatened to have him deported, even though he had the right to work in the country.
Detectives searched The Cake Merchant branches in Liverpool, Campbelltown and Bonnyrigg.
The couple were then charged with human trafficking and slavery.
The Shahs, who own five patisseries in western Sydney, are also accused of underpaying the worker.
This comes despite buying their home for $2.3 million in 2013 and watching the value double over the next eight years.
Their mansion sits on one hectare of landscaped lawn and features seven bathrooms, marble floors, a dedicated home theatre with a 3D projector, vast living areas, and a grand entrance with a sweeping marble staircase.
The property also includes a tiled pool, an apartment for guests and enough garage space for six cars.
Police arrested the Shahs after they initially received a report from the FairWork Ombudsman in March 2018 that alleged a worker had been mistreated at the cake shop.
Police then obtained search warrants for the couple’s home and businesses. As a result, they found various pieces of evidence suggesting that the couple kept the worker as a slave.
During a search of their home, detectives recovered financial documents and three mobile phones.
It is also alleged that 59-year-old Mr Shah monitored the worker’s phone calls to family members, kept him isolated from the community and denied him access to a bank account.
Australian Federal Police (AFP) Detective Inspector Jeremy Staunton said:
“The employee worked excessive hours, their movements were restricted, they weren’t able to have access to a bank account and they weren’t paid for their time.”
Mr Shah was charged with conducting a business involving the servitude of another person and trafficking in persons – entry into Australia – deception as to sexual services, exploitation or confiscation.
Mrs Shah was charged with conducting a business involving the servitude of another person.
Following their arrest, the couple were released on bail.
They will appear before Downing Centre Local Court on December 14, 2021.
DI Staunton said more than 100 reports had been made by the public regarding human trafficking.
He said: “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.
“Human Trafficking investigators work tirelessly to help victims struggling through atrocious slavery-like situations and to ensure they are removed from harmful situations, and their abusers face the full extent of the law in Australia.”