The UK Border has published details of a Mauritian-born couple who have been found guilty of four counts of human trafficking and three counts of employing illegal workers in their Sussex care home.
Shamila and Anbanaden Chellapermal of Queens Gate, London were accused of trafficking three women and a man into the United Kingdom last year.
On Monday, following a three-week trial, a jury returned a unanimous verdict against them.
Lutchmee Jhugur, Ragenee Oodit and Jean and Jessica La Rose all came to the UK via the agency between November 19, 2007, and May 1, 2008, armed with fake invitation letters provided by the agency to allow them to pass through immigration channels.
All workers were discouraged from leaving the homes and would be contacted within minutes if they did so and told to return.
Lucy Tsikira and Ruth Mparadzi, two Zimbabwean women who were staying illegally in the UK after their visitor’s visas expired, worked at the homes full-time in June and July, 2008, with an Indian woman, Ligimol Peter, who was also illegally in the UK.
All three said Seenyen-Chellapermal was fully aware of their immigration status, yet encouraged them to work for her as she was short-staffed.
During the trial, the court heard that officers from Sussex police received information in June 2008 that a Mauritian woman working at a care home in Worthing was being exploited. This prompted an investigation by the joint UK Border Agency South East Region and Sussex Police immigration crime team.
Officers found that three women and a man had been recruited in Mauritius by an employment agency promising work abroad. They had each been given an invitational letter to show to immigration officers in case they were asked about their reasons for coming to the United Kingdom – one letter said that the purpose of the visit was to visit the Chelsea Flower show, and another referred to Christmas shopping and sightseeing.
All four had been brought into the United Kingdom via Heathrow airport, where they had been met by either Mr or Mrs Chellapermal. Mr Chellapermal had driven two of the women to Glen Eden care home on Richmond Road, and Mrs Chellapermal had placed the other woman and the man on a train to Worthing, where a taxi had picked them up and taken them to the Carleton House care home on Lawrence Road.
The victims were working between 70 and 90 hours a week for only £450 per month. They did not receive pay slips or national insurance numbers, were not allowed to leave the addresses unescorted, and were prevented from seeing doctors or attending hospital for treatment. They received very little time off, often working 12-hour shifts, seven days a week.
David Scutt, prosecuting, said the couple were part of an international trafficking network which lured poor Mauritian workers to the country with the promise of wages four times what they could earn at home.
The Chellapermals also banned workers from visiting doctors, said Mr Scutt, to prevent the illegal operation being uncovered.
“These were people in authority, people that might lead to the discovery of what was going on.”
He said one worker, Ragenee Oodit, developed a foot problem while working in one of the homes, but instead of seeking medical help, the Chellapermals gave her cream taken from one of the residents.
Mr Scutt said the couple hoped the workers’ knowledge of their own illegal status would prevent them going to the police.
He added that the couple also employed foreign workers already resident in the UK whom they knew were not allowed to work.
One Zimbabwean woman, Lucy Tsikira, performed more than 400 hours of cleaning at the homes, for which she was paid a total of £15.
Mr Scutt said the operation was uncovered when immigration police began investigating the homes last June.
On July 1, when immigration police executed a search warrant at both homes, three out of the five staff found on the premises were illegally working.
The homes were closed after the couple were arrested.
One of the female victims had been told, by Mrs Chellapermal, that she needed a French passport to work in the United Kingdom. Mrs Chellapermal had charged her £2,200 for it, deducting £100 per month from her wages.
Mr and Mrs Chellapermal were charged in July 2008. Following their conviction, Detective Inspector Andy Cummins of the joint UK Border Agency and Sussex Police immigration crime team said:
‘Human trafficking is an appalling crime where people are treated as commodities and traded for profit. It is a modern form of slavery. The joint immigration crime team’s overall aim is to make the UK a hostile environment for trafficking and protect victims and potential victims from this abhorrent crime.
‘In this case, the Chellapermals have not only knowingly and willingly exploited these people but have blatantly flouted the immigration laws of the UK.
‘The UK Border Agency and Sussex Police will not tolerate this type of abuse and will work closely to prosecute those responsible.’
Roxy Boyce of the Care Quality Commission, which regulates care services for adults in England, said the residents of the care homes had been assessed and transferred to other homes. At present, both homes are empty.
John Dixon, West Sussex County Council executive director for adults and children, said the prosecution had ‘demonstrated exemplary partnership working between the agencies involved’.
Judge Robert Fraser released the pair on conditional bail and said he would await probation reports before sentencing, but told them: “I don’t want you to go away under any illusions. These are serious matters.
“You do face a custodial sentence. I make no bones about it.”
The couple will be sentenced at Inner London Crown Court on July 17.
Mauritius is a ‘non-visa’ nation. This means that Mauritian nationals who want to visit the United Kingdom do not need to go to the British Embassy in Mauritius and apply for a travel visa.
When they arrive at a United Kingdom airport, if they can satisfy the immigration officer on entry that their visit is for holiday or visiting friends or family, they will be given six months’ entry clearance with no entitlement to work or to claim public funds.
If you need any immigration advice or help with Sponsorship or Work Permits, Visa or an appeal against a refusal please email: