South Africa: Employment and Labour On Postponement of Bail Hearing Against Alleged Human Trafficking Suspects

press release

Bail hearing of seven Chinese nationals busted for alleged human trafficking and violation of labour laws postponed to January 2020

A warrant officer testifying in the bail hearing in the matter of seven Chinese nationals who were busted recently for operating a factory allegedly involved in the trafficking of illegal immigrants and subjecting them to forced labour testified in the Johannesburg Magistrates Court yesterday (December 12) that the release of the accused "will pose a problem".

The Officer from the Hawks allege that the accused have provided the Court with false addresses of their residence, could not provide credible information on the leased property where they were arrested, have no properties in South Africa, and that she feared that they will interfere with witnesses. She also expressed concern of the safety of the accused, when she told the Court that the community where their factory was operating was angry and had threatened to take law unto themselves.

The Officer further testified that more witnesses are yet to be interviewed. She also disclosed that CCTV footage confiscated during the operation is yet to be studied.

The accused in the matter are: Kevin Tsao (naturalised South African), Chen Hui, Qin Li, Jiaqing Zhou, Ma Biao, Dai Junying, and Zhang Zhilian.

The four males and three females were arrested on November 12 in a joint operation by the Department of Employment and Labour's Inspection and Enforcement Services (IES) branch in Gauteng together with the South African Police Services (SAPS), Home Affairs and the Hawks Unit. The arrests followed a tip-off that the Chinese nationals were allegedly involved in the trafficking of illegal immigrants and subjecting them to forced labour.

The accused were operating a factory called Beautiful City Pty Ltd located at Village Deep in Johannesburg. During the raid minor children were found to be employed at the factory, and that the employer was violating the suite of labour legislation ranging from National Minimum Wage (NMW), Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA), the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (Coida), the Unemployment Insurance Act (UI Act) and Unemployment Insurance Contributions Act (UICA).

In an affidavit submitted by the SAPS/Hawks in Court, the authorities intend to charge the accused with schedule six offence(s). The accused will face charges of human trafficking, debt bondage, kidnapping and pointing of a firearm.

It emerged earlier in Court this week that of the 91 Malawian nationals employed in the factory who were found during the raid, 37 of them were children. The Court also heard that the Malawians working in the factory were transported to South Africa through containers. The accused are alleged to have been brought to South Africa by a middleman known as "the transporter".

The bail hearing continues on 21 January 2020. The accused have been remanded in custody.

Issued by: Department of Employment and Labour

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