EMPLOYEES at a Carlisle car wash were burned by chemicals and “compelled to work long hours in bad conditions for little pay” during alleged exploitation after being transported to the city from abroad, a court heard.

‪Defrim Paci, 42, his brother Jetmir Paci, 37, and Sitar Ali, aged 33, all stand accused of modern slavery crimes committed against Romanian nationals at Shiny, Warwick Road, during 2016 and 2017.‬

‪Prosecutor Martin Reid told a Carlisle Crown Court jury: “This case is all about forced labour and arranging for people to come to the UK with a view to their being exploited.”‬

‪Mr Reid said: “Defrim Paci operated at the top of the conspiracy”, while his brother, Jetmir, was involved in building work at the hand car wash, along with the transportation of staff. This was managed by Ali, whose responsibilities included daily treatment of staff, their wages and payment for their transport to this country, plus their accommodation and rent collection.‬

‪Mr Reid said: “It is the prosecution case that the circumstances created by the defendants led to the freedom of these workers effectively being over-ridden and that they were compelled to work long hours in bad conditions for little pay, their labour being exploited for the benefit of the defendants.”‬

‪Several workers, he said, had identity cards taken away until travel cost debt was repaid; were required to live in “very dirty” rat and insect-infested multi-occupancy accommodation in Carlisle; and were “faced with having only £20 in their pockets from a week’s work of 11 hours a day, six days a week”.‬

‪Some described having no breaks, of having skin on their face and body “burned” by cleaning chemicals, and of receiving no protective clothing. One recalled buying some gloves for £2 from Tesco. Another said: “They treated me the same like they would do with a slave.”‬

Defrim Paci, of Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, Jetmir Paci, of Minimum Terrace, Chesterfield, and Ali, of Adelaide Street, Carlisle, each deny two charges. One alleges conspiracy to require others to perform forced or compulsory labour at Shiny in Carlisle; the other alleges conspiracy to facilitate travel with a view to exploitation. Ali further denies possessing criminal cash.‬

‪Jurors were told, in addition to witness testimony, they would consider a wealth of documentary evidence, including mobile phone data collected during the police investigation, and details of two immigration visits to the car wash.‬

Defrim Paci, of Windmill Close, Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire; and Jetmir Paci, of Minimum Terrace, Chesterfield, both told police when interviewed they had no involvement or knowledge of Shiny Carlisle’s day to day operation. Ali, of Adelaide Street, Carlisle, also denies any wrongdoing.

‪The trial, which is expected to last around six weeks, continues.‬