An Italian finance police patrol during an operation in Florence | Photo: ANSA/Finance Police
An Italian finance police patrol during an operation in Florence | Photo: ANSA/Finance Police

Police have arrested a couple that allegedly exploited workers at a leather processing company in central Italy. Chinese, Pakistani and Bangladeshi migrants reportedly had to work 14 hours per day without breaks, for just over three euros per hour.

The Florence prosecutor's office conducted an investigation into worker exploitation at a leather processing company that led to the arrest of two people, a Chinese couple. They were placed in pre-trial custody in jail. Authorities seized assets from the couple totaling €522,883.

They are accused of exploiting migrant workers, most of whom were Chinese, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis.

A judge also issued residence restriction orders for two other Chinese citizens, relatives of the couple.

Migrant worker exploitation

Initial hearing judge Angela Fantechi wrote in the arrest warrant that the workers were kept "in a state of submission and exploitation" with "macroscopic violations of maximum work hours and a lack of breaks, with people reduced to mere labor." In some cases, the migrants were reportedly forced to work overnight in order to meet delivery deadlines.

The judge wrote that the couple committed "all-around" violations in carrying out their business, which was done "with the exclusive goal of maximizing profit, in contempt of every law in force, with a complete evasion of taxes and exploitation of workers, as well as the use of figureheads."

The couple has been charged with illegal gangmastering, fraudulent bankruptcy, fraudulent declaration and fraudulent evasion of tax payments, as well as illegal collection and disposal of hazardous waste.

Tax fraud accusations

The investigation was carried out by agents of the Italian finance police and led to a company in Rome with a local branch in Calenzano in the province of Florence.

The local branch subcontracted its work on behalf of third parties to a company managed by the suspects. The couple allegedly entrusted the work to individual companies that remained operational only for brief periods of time, which were periodically liquidated in order to avoid paying debts with tax authorities. According to investigators, these companies were then replaced by new companies, which operated in the same places and with the same machines and labor force.

Investigators allege that the main company and its subsidiaries accrued a total of €589,000 in back taxes between 2013 and 2019 and evaded €522,883 in additional taxes.

 

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