News Seven Chinese nationals return to court over human trafficking...

Seven Chinese nationals return to court over human trafficking charges

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Six of the seven Chinese nationals accused of running a human trafficking organisation in Gauteng have been denied bail amendments by the Johannesburg Magistrate’s court, with one of the accused having successfully been granted amendments to his current bail conditions. 

After their arrest in November 2019 following a blitz operation in which a factory staffed with 91 Malawian nationals  – including 37 children – was discovered, the group appeared in court on 14 September and received varied rulings in terms fo their bail applications. 

Human trafficking suspects apply for bail amendments  

Delivering a ruling in the application for amendments of bail conditions, Magistrate Basimane Molwana granted accused number one – Kevin Tsao – the right to fulfil his business obligations during the week, and permission to leave his residential complex without hindrance, save for signing at a police station three times a week. 

The group are all currently out on bail ranging from R30 000 to R70 000, but have been ordered to adhere to strict conditions that restrict their movement and ability to conduct business. 

Another accused, Dai Junying, was denied amendments to her bail conditions because she failed to submit corroborative evidence, and the other five suspects are also damned to spend their days within the confines of their residences.

“Accused two to seven were expected to stay at the place of resident of accused number one. They are not allowed any movement beyond their complex,” the Department of Employment and Labour said in a statement on Monday. 

The other accused – Chen Hui, Qin Li, Jiaqing Zhou, Ma Biao, and Zhang Zhilian – are only allowed movement out of their premises in order to sign at the Cleveland Police Station between 06:00 and 18:00, and when they attend to Court proceedings.

Factory discovered in 2019  

The case has been drawn out and delayed on several occasions by bail applications and requests for amendments. 

Their arrest was the result of a joint operation conducted by the Department of Employment and Labour’s Inspection and Enforcement Services (IES) branch in Gauteng in collaboration with the South African Police Services (SAPS), Department of Home Affairs, and the Hawks Unit.

The factory that was raided was allegedly processing the inner cotton of blankets using recycled clothing by a labour force of Malawias who are believed to have been brought to South Africa in containers by a middle-man known as “the transporter”, who is still on the run.

“It is alleged that the company’s operations were carried out behind closed high steel gates with access strictly controlled by employers,” said the Department of Labour.

“Workers were also allegedly exposed to appalling working conditions without adhering to occupational health and safety.”

Charges range from human trafficking to kidnapping  

The seven Chinese nationals are expected to be charges ranging from human trafficking, violation of Immigration Act, debt bondage, kidnapping and pointing of a firearm. 

The Department of Employment and Labour has since joined in the matter to press for the prosecution of the accused for violating South Africa’s labour laws.

The case will be transferred to the Johannesburg High Court after prosecutors served the accused with indictments on Monday. They will next appear on 16 October 2020.

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