The Supreme Court has sentenced the director of a berry picking company in Central Finland to one year and ten months in prison on 26 counts of human trafficking.
The victims of the incident were all from Thailand and had to work 15 hours a day with little or no pay, as their income went from paying off their debts to Finland.
In January 2018, the defendant was sentenced to 20 months in prison for smuggling 26 people from Thailand and on charges of fraud and violating waste management laws.
In February 2020, the Vaasa Court of Appeal reduced the sentence to 16 months and ruled that the defendant should be convicted of one case of trafficking in human beings against 26 persons instead of 26 separate cases of trafficking in human beings.
However, the Supreme Court overturned this decision and ruled instead that there were 26 separate offenses in the case, as the defendant had violated the individual freedom, sovereignty and personal security of each berry picker.
The court also upheld convictions for fraud and violation of the Waste Management Act. Due to the seriousness of the crime, the court sentenced the accused to imprisonment, even though it was a first-time crime.
The Court of Appeal previously upheld an earlier district court decision banning the defendant from doing business for three years and paying a total of € 200,000 in damages to the 26 plaintiffs.
The events took place in the summer of 2016
The boss of the berry picking movement had recruited 26 victims from Thailand and arranged their trip to Hankasalmi in the summer of 2016 to pick them up.
The victims were placed in accommodation on property owned by the company, which was later considered unsafe and unsuitable for living by a court of appeal for violating fire, safety and health regulations. Collectors were housed in trailers and freight containers that also had their sanitary and cooking facilities.
They were also not adequately instructed in the performance of their duties and therefore did not collect enough berries, which led to a reduction in wages.
Collectors were also dependent on the company, as the company’s boss had concealed their passports.
They could not return home earlier because they did not have enough money to pay for the change of their flights and were instead forced to continue picking berries to reimburse their travel and accommodation expenses.
Source: The Nordic Page