Nepalese recruitment agency directors handed slavery order
3rd January 2023
Two directors of a Nepalese recruitment agency suspected of exploiting vulnerable workers by charging them thousands of pounds in fees have been handed a Slavery and Trafficking Risk Order (STRO).
Doncaster Magistrates’ Court approved the application from the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) for an interim STRO against Resham Gurung and Pravin Rimal at a hearing on Wednesday December 21.
The order is in place for 18 months.
STROs are civil orders issued to restrict the activities of individuals who pose a serious risk of otherwise committing slavery or trafficking offences.
Gurung, 65, and Rimal, 56, are listed as chairmen of Adept and Agile, a company based in Nepal.
The GLAA has suspended Adept and Agile’s licence, meaning it can no longer at this time supply workers into the UK regulated sectors of agriculture, horticulture, shellfish gathering, and any associated processing and packaging.
Investigations were stepped up after GLAA officers spoke to 85 workers on two visits to a meat processing factory in South Yorkshire in October 2022.
Workers told the GLAA that they had paid job-finding fees of up to £13,000 to Adept and Agile while they were still in Nepal. Some had taken out loans to pay the fee, while others said that they had put up their homes or businesses as security for the loan.
Work-finding fees are explicitly banned under the GLAA licensing standards.
Some of the workers added that they had been told not to speak about the payments otherwise they could lose their jobs and be sent back to Nepal.
Gurung, of Foxley Close, Blackwater, Surrey, and Rimal, of Ring Road, Gwarko, Kathmandu, Nepal, are prevented under the STRO from arranging anyone’s travel into or out of England, other than their own children.
They must also not arrange travel or transport for anyone to and from their place of work.
Gurung and Rimal must not act as gangmasters and are prevented from arranging employment for anyone else.
Further restrictions on the pair prevent them from renting or subletting any property, rooms, premises or buildings which they either own or control.
They are also forbidden from procuring, coercing, or instructing anyone else to carry out any of the restrictions listed above on their behalf.
Gurung and Rimal must allow law enforcement officers access to any accommodation they occupy or control so the GLAA can check that they are complying with the conditions of the order.
GLAA Chief Executive Elysia McCaffrey said: “The GLAA will always stand up for the protection of workers’ rights across the labour market. Allegations that vulnerable people are being charged thousands of pounds in job-finding fees before even arriving in the UK are a cause for concern for our agency.
“We will use all the enforcement and regulatory tools at our disposal to create a level playing field for businesses in the fresh produce sector and to target those who flout our regulations.”
GLAA Investigating Officer Dale Walker added: “We are committed to protecting communities from the harm caused by modern slavery and human trafficking. Securing this interim order is a significant step which allows us to monitor the activities of the two defendants for the next 18 months while our investigations are ongoing.
“We expect the pair to follow all the restrictions contained within the order and will not hesitate to take further action if any of the conditions are not being followed.”
Breaching a STRO is a criminal offence carrying a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
If you believe someone is a victim of forced labour or other labour exploitation, contact the GLAA’s intelligence team on 0800 4320804 or by emailing email@example.com.
Alternatively, call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.