Auckland man who forced staff into 'economic slavery' still a risk to community, refused parole

Mohammed Atiqul Islam. Photo / NZ Herald

A man jailed for exploiting migrant workers after forcing staff in his Auckland sweet shop to work for up to 68 hours a week for a pittance has been refused parole.

Mohammed Atiqul Islam and his wife Nafisa Ahmed paid their staff as little as $6 an hour and confiscated passports.

Staff said they thought they “might die from overwork” .

The couple were jointly charged by Immigration New Zealand and acquitted on human trafficking charges.

Islam was found guilty of 10 charges of exploitation and seven other immigration-related offences.

Also known as Kafi Islam, he was found guilty of a further three charges of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Ahmed, an accountant in her mid 30s, was jointly found guilty of seven exploitation charges relating to the five victims.

She was jailed for two years and six months in May 2019 and released on parole in May.

But Islam must stay behind bars.

He was sentenced to four years and five months for his offending and last month the Parole Board said he was still a risk to the community.

Nafisa Ahmed has been released from prison after serving less than 12 months of her sentence for exploiting vulnerable workers. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Nafisa Ahmed has been released from prison after serving less than 12 months of her sentence for exploiting vulnerable workers. Photo / Jason Oxenham

“At the time of sentencing the Judge noted that Mr Islam did not take any responsibility for his offending neither did he express any remorse,” said board panel convenor Judge Jane Lovell Smith.

“The pre-sentence report noted that Mr Islam’s risk of psychological harm to others, particularly employees, was high.

“Mr Islam’s security classification is minimum and there are no issues with his conduct in prison.

“As a first offender, his (risk of reconviction level) means he is not eligible for any rehabilitative programmes in prison.

“He is however scheduled to receive assistance with a safety plan… The safety plan programme is not scheduled for this year.”

Judge Lovell Smith said Islam had “excellent family support” and he told the board he wanted to be released so he could be with his 12-year-old son.

“He told the Board that he was very sorry for the whole situation but he also described the punishment as being very severe given he was removed from his family,” she said.

But, she refused to make his wish come true.

“The board found Mr Islam’s expressions of remorse to be unconvincing,” she said.

“His current safety plan does not address the issues of his potential risk of reoffending.

“The Judge described his offending as shameless exploitation of the employees. His actions were clearly further personal gain and his victims were very vulnerable.

“Without assistance with planning an appropriate safety plan, Mr Islam’s risk remains undue. Parole is declined.”

Lovell Smith said the board would support Islam moving to self-care in the prison and some sort of employment including the Release to Work programme.

Nafisa Ahmed, left, and Mohammed Atiqul Islam, also known as Kafi Islam, in the Auckland District Court. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Nafisa Ahmed, left, and Mohammed Atiqul Islam, also known as Kafi Islam, in the Auckland District Court. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Islam will be seen again in June 2021 and Lovell Smith said the board expected him to be able to provide a “full and appropriate” safety plan.

Islam and Ahmed’s offending was uncovered after two of the chefs at the Royal Sweets Cafe, also known as the Royal Bengal Cafe, complained to New Zealand authorities about the conditions imposed on them.

The chefs’ passports were also confiscated after they arrived in New Zealand from Bangladesh after responding to advertisements for work in Bengali newspapers.

Judge Brooke Gibson said the chefs had “suffered grievously” in a form of economic slavery.

Working long hours, Islam and Ahmed’s employees were paid just $6 an hour, were not paid for all of the hours they worked or any holiday pay, the court heard.

Employees on temporary visas were also encouraged by Islam and Ahmed to breach their visa conditions by working more hours.

At the trial, Crown prosecutor Jacob Parry said some of the victims suffered swollen legs and hands and one thought “we might die from overwork”.

This post first appeared on Here