City car wash slavery pair ordered to pay back £107k

Sitar Ali and Defrim Paci appeared at Carlisle Crown Court. Credit: Craig McGlasson

Two men previously jailed for running a modern slavery ring at a Carlisle car wash have been ordered to repay tens of thousands of pounds linked to their offending.

Three years ago, Defrim Paci and Sitar Ali were handed prison sentences for their role in a criminal enterprise which saw Romanian workers trafficked to the UK and made to work long hours at the Shiny site on Warwick Road.

Several men told police they were forced to work in dire conditions, using chemicals without proper protective clothing which caused burns. Some men were left with as little as £20 in their weekly pay packets despite working up to 11 hours a day, six days a week. They were also housed in rat-infested accommodation.

Paci, now aged 45, from Sutton-in-Ashfield, was said to have led the plot to exploit employees during a 15-month period which spanned 2016 and 2017. Ali, of Carlisle, was manager of the Shiny site where workers were denied proper breaks and time off.

One worker told police his ordeal was “the most horrific experience I have been through in my entire life”.

Paci, of Sutton-in-Ashfield, was handed a 45-month prison sentence by a Carlisle Crown Court judge in July, 2021, while Ali was handed a 39-month jail term. Both were convicted by a jury of two modern slavery offences they had denied. In addition, Ali was found guilty of possessing criminal cash.

As part of the probe, financial investigators set about trying to claw back assets amassed by the pair through their illegal activity. This was done as part of tough Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) legislation which seeks to deny criminals the use of ill-gotten gains, recover proceeds of crime and deter criminality.

Both Paci and Ali were brought back to court during a protracted POCA process.

At the crown court last month, Ali was deemed to have benefited from his offending to the tune of £248,569.20, and was ordered to pay back an available amount of money totalling £18,930.

On Wednesday 15 May, a judge concluded that Paci’s benefit figure was £262,318.40.

This included the sum — agreed by prosecution and defence — of £122,074 in respect of non-payment of worker wages, and also cash contained in two bank accounts.

Judge Nicholas Barker ruled that Paci should hand back £88,313.40 of the benefit figure. This sum, the court heard, had been paid into a company bank account in 2019 following the sale of a Barrow car wash in which Paci had been involved for many years.

Paci must hand back the money within three months under the terms of a confiscation order, and is liable to serve a 12-month prison sentence in default.

Both Paci and Ali have also been made the subject or 12-year slavery trafficking protection orders which impose a raft of tough conditions aimed at preventing repeat offending by the pair.

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