One half of the husband-and-wife team who owned a sweet shop where their employees thought they "might die from overwork" has been released from prison.

Mohammed Atiqul Islam and his wife Nafisa Ahmed paid their staff as little as $6 an hour for working up to 68 hours a week, but were jailed for their two-year exploitation of migrant workers.

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

Islam this month failed in his application to the Court of Appeal to cut his prison sentence of four years and five months.

But his wife, who was jailed for two years and six months in May 2019, has been released by the Parole Board.

Ahmed had been working in prison and had completed a rehabilitation course, the Kowhiritanga programme, in which offenders try to gain insight into their attitudes and behaviour.

She is no longer an undue risk to the community, wrote Sir Ron Young, the chairman of the Parole Board, although he imposed conditions of release such as not being allowed to work with her husband, who is still in prison.

Their 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".

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