South Africa: Employment and Labour On Defence of Chinese Nationals Arrested for Alleged Human Trafficking

press release

Defence in the matter of seven Chinese nationals arrested for alleged human trafficking and violation of SA's labour laws to apply for amendments to bail conditions

The defence in the matter of seven Chinese nationals arrested last November for alleged human trafficking and violation of South Africa's labour laws seek to file an application for amendments to bail conditions of the accused.

The Johannesburg Magistrates Court on 24 June granted bail with strict endorsements to the seven Chinese nationals in the long-drawn bail hearing.

The seven accused in the matter - Kevin Tsao, Chen Hui, Qin Li, Jiaqing Zhou, Ma Biao, Dai Junying, and Zhang Zhilian - first filed for bail in November following their arrest for alleged human trafficking and violation of South Africa's labour laws

The Chinese nationals were on 20 March 2020 denied the initial bail. Following that the defence decided to lodge a second bail attempt on new facts. On May 25 the Magistrate ruled that there were grounds for defence to apply for second bail. The Prosecution had earlier dismissed the submission by defence of a second bail attempt as the "reshuffling of old arguments as new facts".

Magistrate Basimane Molwana had previously ruled that while COVID-19 was not a new ground to lodge bail on new facts, but the lockdown was a new ground to apply for bail.

Accused one (Tsao) was granted a bail of R70 000 with conditions to leave his place of resident only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. A naturalised South African, he is also having a pending matter which is being heard at the Alexandra Court.

Accused two (Hui) was granted bail of R55 000. He also has a previous conviction.

The rest of the accused were granted bail of R30 000 each with strict conditions attached to their movements.

Accused two to seven were expected to stay at the place of resident of accused number one. They are not allowed any movement beyond their complex. The are only allowed movement out of their premises only to sign at the Cleveland Police Station between 06:00am and 18:00 and when they attend to Court proceedings.

The seven accused appearing in the matter were arrested for allegedly running an illegal enterprise called Beautiful City Pty Ltd located at Village Deep in Johannesburg.

The seven Chinese - four males and three females were arrested on 12 November 2019 in a joint operation conducted by the Department of Employment and Labour's Inspection and Enforcement Services (IES) branch in Gauteng together with the South African Police Services (SAPS), Department of Home Affairs and the Hawks Unit.

Their arrests followed a tip-off that the Chinese nationals were allegedly involved in the trafficking of illegal immigrants into South Africa and subjecting them to forced labour.

During the joint blitz 91 Malawian nationals were found in the factory, 37 of them were children. During the bail hearing the Court heard that the Malawians working in the Chinese factory were transported to South Africa using containers. The Malawians are alleged to have been brought to South Africa by a middleman known as "the transporter" who is still on the run.

The Chinese factory was allegedly processing the inner cotton of blankets using recycled clothing. It is alleged that the company's operations were carried out behind closed high steel gates with access strictly controlled by employers. Workers were also allegedly exposed to appalling working conditions without adhering to occupational health and safety.

In an affidavit submitted by the SAPS/Hawks in Court, the authorities intend to charge the accused with schedule six offence. The accused will face charges ranging from human trafficking, violation of Immigration Act, debt bondage, kidnapping and pointing of a firearm. The Department of Employment and Labour has since joined in the matter to press for the prosecution of the accused for violating South Africa's labour laws.

The accused are out on bail and are expected back in Court on 19 August 2020 at Court 23.

More From: Govt of SA

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