A Nepalese restaurant-owning couple has been sentenced to one year and eight months of conditional imprisonment and community service for human trafficking and aggravated extortion by the Helsinki District Court. The sentence was issued on April 28, 2023, and involved two victims who received a joint punishment for the crimes mentioned.
The couple had hired a Nepalese domestic worker for cleaning and cooking duties in their own home.
The worker was linguistically challenged, and had no knowledge of the employee rights in Finland. During her years-long employment, the worker did not have any actual days off or enough annual leave, and worked from early morning to late night doing housework, serving the couple's visiting relatives and acquaintances at home, and occasionally working in the couple's restaurant.
The worker received practically no salary for her work, as the small compensation paid for her work in Finland was given to her family in Nepal. While the agreed-upon salary was paid into a Finnish bank account in the worker's name, she was not allowed to use the account, as her employer controlled the online banking and debit card, and the salary paid into the account was redirected back to the employer. The worker was also in debt to her employer due to unpaid wages. She had limited social life and was afraid and respectful of her employers.
According to the district court, the compensation for the worker's work was unreasonably low and violated her human dignity. Furthermore, her privacy was infringed upon during the employment due to living conditions, and her employer had checked her private messages on her phone. The worker had no other real option but to submit to the abuse.
The district court found that the couple had used deception, taking advantage of the victim's dependent position and insecure status, as well as the victim's reliance on them to enter Finland, to traffic the worker. The couple took control over the worker's life, including where she lived and worked, and subjected her to inhumane working conditions, leading to forced labor.
In addition, the same judgment dealt with another Nepalese employee, who was found to have been a victim of aggravated extortion by the restaurant-owning couple. The couple had extorted the worker by taking most of her salary, making her pay for her own accommodation, and threatening her with deportation.
This case is a harsh reminder of the dangers of human trafficking and the exploitation of vulnerable individuals. It is important for employers to recognize the rights of their workers, especially those who may be at a disadvantage due to their linguistic and social limitations. Such violations of human rights and human dignity cannot be tolerated, and the law must be enforced to ensure that perpetrators are held accountable.