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Landlord guilty of treating vulnerable tenants as ‘slaves’

A buy-to-let landlord has been found guilty of exploiting six vulnerable tenants by bullying them into working for him without pay.

Hargit Bariana shamelessly set his tenants to work without pay at his chip shop and pizza takeaways in Blyth and Sunderland and threatened to beat them if they did not comply.

Instead of receiving money, the tenants were given leftover food and alcohol.

The 46-year-old landlord denied the modern slavery charges, as well as robbery and supplying diazepam.

But a jury at Newcastle Crown Court found Bariana, of Netherton Colliery, guilty of six offences of requiring another person to perform forced or compulsory labour.

The charges related to a period between 2010 and 2016, during which Bariana said he had shown the men compassion.

The court was told that Bariana used “tenants in his multi-occupancy house as unpaid labour and kept them in line with beatings and by stealing their shoes”.

Prosecutor Christopher Knox told the jury that “this is about exploitation”, insisting that Bariana took advantage of men “whom he knew were vulnerable in all cases because they were either homeless, or near homeless, they had drug or alcohol dependencies or both”.

Knox added: “They were, in practical terms, people at a low ebb and were easily bullied, coerced and forced to do work.”

One of the tenants told the court that he gave his £76-a-week housing benefit, plus £20 from other benefits, to Bariana in addition to working free of charge at his takeaways.

Bariana was remanded in custody pending sentencing next month.

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