A landlord and takeaway boss who used vulnerable men as slaves has been sentenced at Newcastle Crown Court today.
Harjit Bariana, who has lived at addresses in Blyth and Bedlington, made them work 90-hour weeks in return for takeaway food and alcohol.
The 46-year-old targeted vulnerable men who were left without homes due to alcoholism and drug addiction.
He was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in prison, of which he will spend four on license, after being found guilty of six charges of exploiting unemployed and vulnerable men from the North East of England and one charge of being concerned in the supply of diazepam.
Bariana housed the men in a crowded maisonette in Blyth. Their rent was paid by housing benefits.
During his trial, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said he would then make unfair demands for extra rent payment from the men, exploiting their need for accommodation and forcing them to work at one of his two takeaways – Antonio’s chip shop in Blyth and Valentino’s takeaway in Sunderland.
He was found not guilty of the robbery of one of the men and also acquitted of a further two charges of requiring a person to perform forced or compulsory labour.
Heather Wilkinson of the CPS said: “Harjit Bariana targeted desperate and destitute men, providing low quality housing for them.
“He received housing benefit for this, but then told the men that they were also expected to work for him to pay entirely fictional debts.
“The men were then forced to work at Bariana’s two restaurants through a combination of threats, beatings and the supply of drugs and alcohol.
“He would even remove shoes and clothing from the cramped maisonette in which the men were housed to prevent them leaving their accommodation in the evening.
“The CPS presented detailed evidence to the court showing the extent of Bariana’s offending. I would like to praise the bravery of the victims and witnesses in this case, whose evidence was key to securing the conviction against Harjit Bariana.
“I would hope that his sentence today provides a good measure of comfort to those he cruelly exploited for his selfish financial gain.”