Three people have been served house arrest warrants and a residency ban in the town of Prato, Tuscany. They allegedly exploited dozens of migrant workers.
Police in the town of Prato in the Tuscany region served warrants to three Chinese nationals on Tuesday. Two of them were placed under house arrest, one of them received a residency ban.
The three allegedly exploited at least 30 workers, most of whom were migrants from Bangladesh and Pakistan. An Afghan citizen and a Chinese national were also among the allegedly exploited workers.
Migrants forced to work during coronavirus lockdown
Police had conducted a ten-month investigation into a local clothing firm. The company employed about 30 men without working papers who were reportedly in dire financial need.
Investigators say that the workers worked seven days a week, 12 to 14 hours per day. The workers were allegedly required to continue working even during coronavirus lockdown periods.
"They were working in inhuman conditions," Prato prosecutor Giuseppe Nicolosi said in a press conference. "This is a situation that sheds light on a painful reality."
Suspects charged with labor exploitation
The three suspects are accused of labor exploitation and irregular immigration, under an article of Italian law that renders the owners of the business in which the exploitation takes place responsible.
Investigators reportedly found that while one of the three suspects officially ran the company, he was just a front and the other two actually ran the business. The latter two are the ones now under house arrest.
The firm as well as about 100 pieces of machinery were seized by the authorities. A total of €250,000 euros were seized from the company assets because they had not paid social security contributions.
Praise for investigators
Prato mayor Matteo Biffoni praised the prosecutor's office and the city police for the operation.
"This was an exemplary investigation, which has few equals in Italy and for which I want to thank the prosecutor's office and the security forces," Biffoni said.
Stefano Ciuoffo, Tuscany's councillor for legal issues, also commented on the case and thanked prosecutors and police. He said: "The bane of labor exploitation persists and continues to multiply. This is an ignoble behavior towards fragile people who are forced into slavery, which has been halted through the efforts and efficacy of the security forces and the prosecutor's office, who I would like to thank."