Auckland sweetshop co-owner who exploited workers released from prison

Nafisa Ahmed and her husband Mohammed Atiqul Islam were jailed after being found guilty of exploiting workers at their Auckland sweetshop.

The co-owner of a sweet shop where workers toiled for up to 68 hours a week for less than $8 an hour has been released from prison. Nafisa Ahmed and her husband Mohammed Atiqul Islam were jailed in May 2019 after being found guilty of exploiting workers. The couple, who are New Zealand citizens, owned Royal Indian Sweets and Cafe in Auckland’s Sandringham. Their business went into liquidation in 2017. They were charged with human trafficking, exploitation of temporary workers, and other immigration-related charges.

Both were found not guilty of human trafficking. But Islam was found guilty of 10 exploitation charges, seven other immigration-related offences, and three charges of attempting to pervert the course of justice. He was sentenced to four years and five months.

Ahmed was found guilty of eight exploitation charges and was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison.

She appeared before the Parole Board for the first time in March.

Board chairman Sir Ron Young said in his decision that Ahmed had been working in prison and had done the Kowhiritanga programme, a rehabilitation course that attempts to change attitudes and behaviours to offending.

Sir Ron said Ahmed is no longer an undue risk to the community.

The board imposed conditions on Ahmed, including not being allowed to work with her husband, who is still in prison.

His appeal bid to reduce his sentence at the Court of Appeal was dismissed on May 4.

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Justice Simon Moore said Mohammed Atiqul Islam engaged in what amounted to “economic and social slavery”.

The judgment detailed the horrific conditions the workers were subjected to at the specialist sweet shop.

Two of the chefs were recruited directly from Bangladesh. Islam told immigration authorities they would be working 40 hours a week and paid $17 per hour for their work.

Immigration New Zealand approved their visas.

However, in reality both chefs worked long days. During cultural festivals they sometimes worked up to 36 hours in one shift.

Immigration New Zealand calculated their hourly rate at $7.97 and $7.08 respectively.

Neither of the chefs spoke or read English and they were completely isolated in New Zealand.

“Some had borrowed money from relatives and friends to pay for the move to New Zealand. With no effective income they have been unable to repay the loans,” the judgment said.

One of the men had to move his wife and children back to their village because he could no longer afford to keep their home in Dhaka.

Another had sold his father’s farm in the expectation he would be able to buy it back with the promised good money he would earn in New Zealand.