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  1. ITV Report

Factory owner jailed for using 'slave workforce' to supply beds to big-name firms

Mohammed Rafiq has been jailed for his crimes. Credit: West Yorkshire Police

A factory owner who used a Hungarian "slave workforce" to supply beds to big-name retailers like John Lewis and Dunelm Mill has been jailed.

Mohammed Rafiq - once heralded as a "pillar of the community" - has been sentenced to 27 months in prison for people trafficking.

The 60-year-old is believed to be the first company boss to be convicted for human trafficking offences in the UK.

  • His crimes
The factory where the men worked. Credit: Google Maps

Rafiq knowingly accepted workers trafficked into the UK by Hungarian nationals Janos Orsos and Ferenc Illes.

The men worked 16-hour days at his bed-making factory Kozee Sleep in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire for as little as £10 per week.

They were promised good wages, housing and food if they travelled to the UK but instead they found themselves in shared, cramped and squalid conditions.

Rafiq entered into agreement with a "ruthless Hungarian gangmaster" and was complicit in the "hideous exploitation" of the workers.

"You knew that they had been trafficked into this country, you yourself intended to exploit them."

Janos Orsos (left) and Ferenc Illes. Credit: PA Wire
The house where the Hungarians found themselves living. Credit: West Yorkshire Police
The Hungarians worked 16-hour days before sleeping here. Credit: West Yorkshire Police
  • Companies failed to spot what happened
File picture of John Lewis. Credit: PA Wire

Rafiq's multi-million pound firm - which he had built up over 33 years since arriving in the UK from Pakistan when he was 20 - manufactured beds and mattresses for high-profile retailers including John Lewis and Dunelm Mill.

The companies required workers to be paid the minimum wage, have contracts, not to be overworked and have holiday entitlement.

But Rafiq ignored these requirements and the companies' ethical audits failed to spot what was happening.

A John Lewis spokesperson told ITV News that the firm stopped doing business with Rafiq once the "illegal and unethical practices" were known.

As soon as evidence of illegal and unethical practices came to light in 2013 we ended the contract with the factory and we also cooperated fully with the police throughout the investigation and court proceedings.

– John Lewis

A spokesman for Dunelm, which was historically supplied with goods by Kozee Sleep but ceased business in December 2014, said:

We are absolutely committed to ensuring that ethical standards are maintained in our supply chain and that all workers are treated fairly.

All our suppliers have to sign up to an Ethical Code of Conduct and we carry out regular audits.

– Dunelm
  • The victim
The victim who wants to remain anonymous. Credit: ITV News

One victim told ITV News that he "felt like a prisoner" and regretted leaving Hungary to work at the factory.

He said traffickers, like Orsos and Illes, "destroy other peoples' lives, tear families apart and destroy the destinies of other people just to gain financial profit".

Rafiq, he said, looked like a "decent" man when he saw him around the factory.

"I didn't think he was capable of such invidious conduct."

Asked what he would say to other foreign workers tempted to pay traffickers to get to Britain, he replied: "Please don't accept it by any means - don't believe them."

  • Police reaction

Detective Chief Inspector Warren Stevenson, from West Yorkshire Police, said he hoped the case sends a strong message to those complicit in the trafficking of people into the UK.

Human trafficking has no place in our communities and we would urge anyone with concerns to please report them to the police so that they can be acted upon.

We hope that today's sentencing provides some closure for them as they continue to rebuild their lives both here in the UK and back in Hungary.

– DCI Warren Stevenson