Foreign chefs were "sold a dream" by the owners of an Auckland sweet shop who are on trial for human trafficking, a court heard today.
Mohammed Atiqul Islam and Nafisa Ahmed, the owners of failed Sandringham Royal Sweets & Cafe, are defending a number of accusations, including deceptively arranging the entry of two Bangladeshi nationals into the country.
Ahmed, a 34-year-old accountant, faces 14 charges for human trafficking, the exploitation of five workers, providing false and misleading information to an immigration officer and aiding and abetting to breach visa conditions.
Islam, a former senior bank worker, faces a total of 25 charges including additional offences of supplying false information and perverting the course of justice.
The married couple originally from Bangladesh each pleaded not guilty to all charges in Auckland District Court this afternoon.
Jurors heard Islam and Ahmed travelled to Bangladesh in 2014 to find a Bengali sweet chef for the cafe they were to open and put advertisements in local newspapers as part of their search.
They employed one Bangladeshi chef to begin with, on the basis he would be paid $17 an hour and work six days a week, and later brought over another chef.
Immigration NZ said the Bangladeshi chefs worked seven days a week, often doing 21-hour days, for two years and earned between $7 and $8 per hour.
The chefs were alleged to have worked without breaks from 10 in the morning until 4am the following day, resting just hours, before starting another shift.
It is alleged that they were also asked to pay $12,000 each to Islam in "migration expenses" before making the move to New Zealand.
Islam also allegedly asked them to surrender their passports shortly after they arrived.
Crown lawyer Jacob Parry said the chefs brought to New Zealand were each underpaid by $81,000. The other workers who were asked to work over their permitted 20 hours each week were owed thousands in wage arrears.
The court heard the chefs worked 36 hours straight over a festival period.
Parry said the chefs were "sold a dream" and misled. He described the couple's behaviour as a "deliberate and pervasive pattern of deception".
Defence lawyer Ron Mansfield said the chefs were not misled and had been fairly treated, included given accommodation by Islam.
"Before [the business] closed its doors the two sweet chefs from Bangladesh who had been legitimately hired were aware that they may lose their jobs. There had been a disagreement between them and Mr Islam who principally operated the business and they knew they would need to return to Bangladesh if the business closed its doors.
"These allegations have been made. Why? ... the answer to that may be obvious and I tell you now because they wanted to remain here and later wanted to bring their families.
"Out of their desperation these complaints, these charges, arise. They knew and the advice they'd received from others in the community was that if they made these types of complaints that would result in INZ offering further visas and their ability to remain here."
Mansfield said the allegations of other employees were "made up or simply exaggerated".
The trial will resume tomorrow. It is expected to last three weeks.