HomeFashionCourt rejects breach of human rights claim by Leisure Clothing directors

Court rejects breach of human rights claim by Leisure Clothing directors

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The two directors of the now-shuttered Leisure Clothing textiles factory have lost their case claiming their human rights were breached.

Bin Han and Jia Liu were both jailed for six years in January 2023, after being convicted on appeal of trafficking and exploiting Vietnamese and Chinese employees at the Bulebel-based factory. They were found guilty of forcing employees to work long days with few to no breaks, in illegal working conditions.

They had subsequently filed constitutional proceedings in March, claiming a breach of fair trial rights, arguing that because they had been jailed after their acquittal was overturned by the Court of Criminal Appeal, that court had not heard evidence or witnesses, nor had it sent the acts back to the Court of Magistrates for the evidence to be heard and evaluated there.

In March 2022, Han was initially found guilty by the court of magistrates, while Jia was acquitted. Han, who also holds Maltese nationality, received a suspended sentence, sparing him from incarceration.

Subsequently, the Attorney General contested the verdict, leading the court of criminal appeal to side with the prosecutors. They deemed both company directors guilty, sentencing each to six years in prison. Additionally, they were instructed to share the costs of the case, and a €200,000 fine against Leisure Clothing stood.

In response, the company directors lodged a case with the First Hall of the Civil Court under its constitutional jurisdiction. They alleged a breach of their right not to be tried twice over the same crime and that the Department of Industrial and Employment Relations (DIER) also took action against them.

Furthermore, they contended that the company, although not formally accused of any wrongdoing, was fined and found guilty. They raised concerns about Jia being deemed guilty by association. Additionally, they lamented the extended duration of the case, asserting a breach of their right to a fair and timely hearing.

The court heard how the DIER proceedings, decided by the court in 2017, were over violations committed between May and June 2016. The crimes over which they were convicted dealt with violations that had taken place in 2014.

Inspector Joseph Busutill told the court the prosecution had withdrawn Dier violations charges in November 2014. He also told the court the charges had been amended to include human trafficking.

The court also noted that, during their legal submissions over the DIER charges, the directors’ lawyers never mentioned similar charges in other proceedings, as was being alleged now.

Presiding over proceedings, Mr Justice Ian Spiteri Bailey rubbished their claims, saying the two had been convicted of crimes in their personal capacity as well as the company’s directors.

Delivering his ruling, Spiteri Bailey said the duration of the hearings, spanning from 2014 to 2023, including the appeal, was not exaggerated, given the case involved communication with countries outside the EU, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The judge, therefore, rejected their claims and confirmed that neither had suffered a breach of their fundamental rights.

During the compilation of evidence against the two directors, a Vietnamese Leisure Clothing employee had told the court she had earned €2,681 in eight months working there but only received €150 every two months.

She detailed that her introduction to Leisure Clothing came via an agency in her native country. According to her account, she was assured a monthly basic wage of €685 to fulfil an eight-hour workday, six days per week. She clarified that this wage did not encompass overtime or additional performance-related allowances but was contingent upon production.

The former factory worker also said she had paid the Vietnamese agent $1,000 and then another $2,500 to land the job in the first place.

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