Law enforcement in Italy has arrested a Chinese couple accused of exploiting immigrant workers. The couple runs a leather goods business that makes handbags for a Burberry supplier.
An investigation by the tax police in Florence that led to the arrest of the couple on Wednesday revealed that the couple was committing tax fraud and exploiting labor. The police has imposed restrictive measures on the couple as well as two other family members, including a ban on them leaving Italy.
According to the police statement, the exploited immigrant workers were from China, Pakistan and Bangladesh. These workers allegedly made €3 an hour and were required to work at least 14 hours a day. The police seized $609,350 in cash.
According to the arrest warrant, the leather goods company, Samipell Srl operated on the outskirts of Florence as a subcontractor to Tivoli Group Spa, a Burberry supplier.
Burberry has not been accused of any affiliation at this time.
According to the warrant, Samipell owners exploited at least 40 immigrant workers, taking advantage of “their state of need” to make Burberry handbags for Tivoli. At this time, Tivoli is not under investigation.
Samipell was established in 2014 and in March 2021, it declared bankruptcy in a Florence court.
In a news conference, Florence chief prosecutor Giuseppe Creazzo said that the arrests were part of the latest effort to further crackdown against labor exploitation and irregular work contracts in the area, which is known to have hundreds of textile and leather goods artisan workshops.
Included in the warrant was a transcript of a wiretapped phone conversation in which one of the Chinese people under investigation was quoted saying that he would make his workers work through the night, if needed, to dye small “Title” bags – a Burberry handbag that retails for just around $1,830.
The warrant also revealed that, since 2013, the Chinese couple in question opened and closed a series of leather goods companies, which helped them evade taxes and the authorities. The couple kept the same address but transferred the workers and the machinery from one business to another.
Reuters was the first to break the news.