Police to probe slavery investigation on Chinese restaurants.
Complaints have been lodged with police watchdogs following raids by offices investigations of modern day slavery at two popular local restaurants earlier this year.
Officers forcibly entered Ming Moon Wolverhampton and Wing Wah Coventry on 22nd August. Local television and newspapers were in attendance at Ming Moon Wolverhampton and it is claimed that there is CCTV footage showing the police re-enacting the battering ram entry later that morning for the benefit of the media.
The police forcibly removed 19 members of staff, 14 from Wing Wah Coventry and five from Ming Moon Wolverhampton. After hours of questioning all 19 were either returned by West Midlands Police to the respective restaurants or released to walk home later that day.
Now owners of the two restaurants have cited what that call “a catalogue of errors and complete incompetence” during the raids, which were undertaken in an attempt to rescue immigrants believed to be held unlawfully on both premises. it is alleged that following the allegations and the media coverage, the reputation and livelihoods of the owners and staff of these two family-run businesses have been severely damaged.
44 formal complaints were lodged with the Independent Police Complaints Commission against West Midlands Police. These include directors, owners, staff and all 19 alleged ‘slaves’. In legal statements, West Midlands Police is accused of abuse of human rights, heavy handed, intimidating and bullying tactics, when they battered down bedroom and bathroom doors to rescue the alleged slaves in the early morning. The complaints have now been referred by the IPCC to a local police team for investigation.
The solicitor representing the two Chinese restaurants, Mr Ian Henery, commented, “I personally took the statements from the staff and owners of Wing Wah Coventry and Ming Moon Wolverhampton and there is clear evidence that West Midlands Police has totally botched its investigation into alleged slavery. There is very clear CCTV evidence of serious unprofessional behaviour, as well as documentary evidence of non-compliance with police protocol and procedure. West Midlands Police has no evidence of slavery, exploitation and human trafficking because there are no slaves, no-one has been exploited and there is no human trafficking.”
Mr Henery added, “We have CCTV footage taken within Ming Moon Wolverhampton‟s reception and restaurant clearly shows police taking fun selfies with the giant Buddha and mirror. This is hardly professional behaviour, when they are meant to be rescuing alleged slaves and hunting alleged human traffickers. One minute the police were shouting at and intimidating the so-called slaves, the next grinning into their cameras. This behaviour is outrageous and makes a mockery of the criminal justice system.”
He continued, “We have documentary evidence that warrants were obtained on 16th August 2017. West Midlands Police has stated they were safeguarding ‘slaves’ who were trafficked and exploited – so why did it take a further seven days to act on ‘rescuing’ the so-called slaves?”
Mr Henery also claimed that police warrants were incorrectly worded and that “thousands of pounds” of damage was caused by the raids.
Trainee Manager, Tham Asam, one of the 14 staff members forcibly removed from Wing Wah Coventry, commented, “I was having a shower when I heard loud shouting and screaming. I was shocked and stunned, I thought we were being burgled so I tried to block the door. A police officer forced the door open, sending me collapsed on the ground, he shouted at me to get out. I was naked and felt humiliated, scared and lost. I had no idea what was happening, He watched me get dressed and continued to shout at me to hurry up. I was forced into a police vehicle.
“After being interrogated over a long period, I was told by a police officer that I was required to give a police and criminal evidence interview. I asked why and refused, he said I would be cautioned if I did not comply. I do not know what I would be cautioned over and eventually we were all driven back to the restaurant by the police. I am a British citizen, there are no slaves, no exploitation, I did not need rescuing, my living and working conditions are good and the owners treat me and all staff like family.”
Mr Asam went on to say, “The police stated that me and my colleagues were being safeguarded and has offered continued counselling and support. This is a blatant lie, we were offered nothing during our frightening interrogation or indeed afterwards. I do not need safeguarding unless it’s against the police. I was lied to and felt vulnerable and scared. I have lost my self-confidence and I find it difficult to sleep at night. I have always respected the police, but now I am in fear of them.”
Both restaurants stress that they are fully cooperating with the police to resolve this as a matter of urgency.
Ian Henery added that, “West Midlands Police must be held accountable for this shambolic raid. Someone needs to be held responsible and in this case it has to be Detective Chief Inspector Sally Simpson who headed up this operation. DCI Simpson made a statement saying that staff are not paid for the hours and types of work they are doing. Wage slips prove this is totally untrue.
“She further claimed that the ongoing investigation is looking into how and where staff are living. We have proven that the accommodation is good and staff stay on site out of their own convenience. She also said that staff were taken to a safe place and police will do everything to safeguard and protect them. No support or protection has been offered or is needed.”
Mr Henery demanded an immediate verbal and written apology from West Midlands Police.
An IPCC spokesperson said: “We received referrals from West Midlands Police in relation to this matter on October 23rd. Following assessment it was determined that a local investigation should be carried out by the force.”
West Midlands Police further stated that two people have been bailed until 22nd November, pending investigation.